As three parties in the Ikh Khural have now nominated candidates for the presidential election to be held on June 26 (DP: Ts Elbegdorj; MPP: B Bat-Erdene; MPRP: N Udval), it might be useful to review the role of the president in Mongolia’s democracy to understand the nature of the looming campaign.
Powers of the President
When a new constitution was adopted in 1992, it set up a bit of a mixture of a presidential and a parliamentary system.
To offer some quick comparisons, the Mongolian president is less powerful than the U.S. or French president, but more powerful than the German president or the Canadian Governor General. The Mongolian prime minister is less powerful than a German chancellor, or a Canadian or British prime minister, but more powerful than the French prime minister. The Mongolian semi-presidential system is more similar to hybrid systems in Central and Eastern European, and the Baltic states.
The Mongolian presidency is endowed with a symbolic, ceremonial role as a head of state and at the same time, with ‘checks and balance’ responsibilities in legislative, executive, and judicial affairs of the state. In legislative affairs, the president has ceremonial duties (e.g. summoning the first openning session of the parliament) as well as significant powers over the legislative process. The president has the right to initiate legislation, to veto (partially and fully), to bring any issues concerning domestic and foreign policies to the parliament (at any time), and to dismiss the parliament if it fails to appoint a Prime Minister within 45 days of the initial nomination).
Although the President has a limited powers over the executive, parliament requires consent (endorsement) from the President to appoint the Prime Minister, and members of the cabinet. The President has a unique entitlement to give directions to the Prime Minister on issues pertaining to national security, foreign policies, national unity, and other areas, to require the Prime Minister’s reports on implementation of his directives, and to attend Cabinet meetings.
If the President perceives the Prime Minister and his cabinet to be pursuing policies contravening parliament-approved domestic and foreign policies, or the government action plan and/or fail to implement Presidential directive, the President has the right to introduce a motion of no confidence to the parliament.
Presidential power is most significant when it comes to the judicial system. These powers include the nomination of three out of nine members of the Constitutional Court, the Prosecutor General and Deputy Prosecutors to the Parliament, to appoint/relieve members of the General Council of the Courts as well as judges at all level.
In addition, three other domains increase the President’s responsibility significantly. The first is the position as Head of National Security Council, which is the highest consultative body of the government to discuss issues pertaining to national security matters. The President, as a head of this consultative body, which includes the Speaker of the Parliament and Prime Minister, calls for meetings and issues directives for any government entities. It also adds an institutional capacity for the President through the Office of the National Security Council and by requiring key government officials to report to the Council.
Second, the President is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. This includes the right to appoint the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces (in consultation with the parliament), to maintain control of the Armed Forces during war time and national emergencies, to declare national emergencies and mobilization, and to approve key documents concerning the structure and employment of the military force.
The final area of presidential power is foreign policy. As head of state, the President represents the state in the international arena, appoints ambassadors, and recognizes foreign ambassadors.