Mongolia has always been evaluated as “free” by the Freedom House Freedom in the World report.
[Disclosure: I acted as a consultant to Freedom House on the report.]
With a focus on political rights and civil liberties, this status has acknowledged Mongolia’s democratization all along.
Now, the rating for Mongolian political rights has been upgraded from 2 to 1 on a seven-point scale (“Countries and territories with a rating of 1 enjoy a wide range of political rights, including free and fair elections.”), even though this has no impact on the overall “free” evaluation.
As the Freedom House report specifies, this change in score is largely motivated by the 2012 parliamentary election where registration and polling procedures have been upgraded significantly. “Among the [Asia-Pacific’s] notable improvements, Mongolia conducted parliamentary elections that were deemed more competitive and fair than in the past.” (http://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FIW%202013%20Booklet%20-%20for%20Web.pdf, p. 9) Further details will come when the Mongolia country report is released.
While this change in the score is obviously entirely symbolic, it’s significant in the year that Mongolia will be hosting and chairing a major meeting of the Community of Democracies.
Other free countries that are judged 1 on political rights and 2 on civil rights like Mongolia are: Belize, Croatia, Ghana, Grenada, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Mauritius, Panama, South Korea, Taiwan.
Some scores in Mongolia’s neighbourhood:
Cambodia PR 6 CR 5 = not free, China 7 6 = not free, Japan 1 2 = free, Kazakhstan 6 5 = not free (downward trend), Kyrgyzstan 5 5 = partly free, North Korea 7 7 = not free, Russia 6 5 = not free, South Korea 1 2 = free, Taiwan 1 2 = free, Tajikistan 6 6 = not free (downward trend), Turkmenistan 7 7 = not free, Uzbekistan 7 7 = not free
The Freedom House in the World Report draws on expert opinions in evaluating countries, rather than surveys or other indices. It is thus formally independent of the many global indices that I have listed for Mongolia as a “scorecard“, but it is also self-avowedly more subjective. The narrative report that accompanies the scores does spell out the context in which any changes to scores have been made.