By Julian Dierkes
I recently started thinking about the future of the DP within Mongolian democracy. In that first post, I wrote about DP party unity and a rejuvenation of DP leaders. I want to continue that consideration here, particularly since the DP will be meeting in its party congress later in December.
3. Democratization Agenda?
One area where DP rhetoric has matched actions is on democratization. The DP very credibly stands for democratization given its history and its leaders’ history of involvement in the democratic revolution.
Pres. Elbegdorj personally emphasizes this democratization legacy at all opportunities, certainly in interactions with international audiences.
But, during his presidency, he has also made some credible efforts at building more democratic institutions that involve more Mongolians. The best example (though any sense of their longterm impact is too early still) are the Peoples’ Halls that have been crated at the local level to support democratic deliberations.
As these halls have been charged with hosting discussions of the Local Development Fund, they have been given real tasks that are of some significant relevance to local interests. The current budget situation may curtail the amount of funding that will be dispersed through the Local Development Fund and local corruption or lack of organization might limit the impact of deliberations in the peoples’ halls, but this has been a very tangible effort at further democratization.
If the DP wants to continue to trade on democratization as one of its strengths, some discussion will be needed as to what that might look like. Is continued decentralization of decision-making the direction that the DP would want to take Mongolia in, along with its implication of a move away from a unitary nation state to something that looks more federal?
4. Policy Platform?
In parliament, the DP has four long years ahead of itself as a small opposition party. Any legislative initiatives will likely be rejected by the MPP that can do so easily, given its 65/79 seat majority. It seems that while the DP might not have access to resources because of its electoral defeat, this would be the ideal time to build competency in policy fields that are of particular importance.
If some kind of rejuvenation of the DP leadership happens (yes, a big IF, see discussion in the previous post), the party should be able to enter the 2020 parliamentary election with an actual platform rather than merely a slate of candidates.
There is no shortage of issues where the DP could develop real competence as they are pressing and few solutions have been proposed in the past. From Ulaanbaatar air pollution, to serious attempts to address social inequality or to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals, 3 1/2 years in opposition remaining leaves lots of time for discussions within the party and a reorientation toward particular policies.
Corruption remains endemic to Mongolia and to Mongolian politics. It is a massive drain on individual and collective opportunities for Mongolians.
At some point, I think, Mongolia’s democracy will give rise to a popular movement against corruption that will either start a new party or will be absorbed into existing parties. For existing parties, including the DP, that will mean that at some point, the party might be swept away by a popular movement if it doesn’t manage to credibly join that anti-corruption movement. But with the current strong representation of business interests and the apparent desire of DP politicians to think of public office as an earnings opportunity for themselves and their associated (no different from other parties in that regard), it seems unlikely that the party will actually address this issue.
If there was a genuine anti-corruption effort, it would have to start from the top, address the presence of business interests, and acknowledge that parties and governments have to be models for everyone else in this regard.
Lots of topics I’ve left out: diversification, environment, debt, inequality, constitutional reform, etc. But those are specific policy-areas where the DP could develop competency and answers, not questions that need to be answered in terms of the party’s future, I think.