Presidential Elections: 3 Things Happened

By Julian Dierkes

The results of the June 26 presidential election has come as a big surprise. I did not expect Battulga to win and certainly did not expect Enkhbold to struggle to finish 2nd.

Lots of questions to think about in coming days. But here is an attempt at a very first, overarching look at what has happened and how to understand it by describing the result around 3 themes:

  1. Battulga won
  2. Mongolians spoke their mind
  3. Campaigns matter

Note that these are almost purely domestic issues, foreign policy and even relations with neighbours did not play a big role in the outcome, I think, despite some of the patriotic symbolism.

Battulga Won

Some of the football podcasts I listen to start with “chronicler’s diary”, i.e. the basic facts of the previous match.

While the closeness in the number of votes between Enkhbold and Ganbaatar and how that has come about is a fascinating topic, the most fundamental result of the election is that Kh Battulga won this election. He did not win it outright, i.e. not with 50%+, but he received around 8% more of the votes than either Enkbold or Ganbaatar.

Battulga essentially won on the back of a sweep of the large (in population terms) Ulaanbaatar districts. He achieved his best result in the city in Bayangol district where he received 50.6% of votes. Enkhbold’s less-than-glorious history as Ulaanbaatar mayor particularly related to land privatizations probably played a role in this sweep of the city districts, though the city has traditionally been a DP stronghold.

Mongolians Speak their Mind

Like last year, Mongolians spoke their mind and gave nearly a third of their votes to a candidate that was deemed to have at best an outside chance, Ganbaatar. Since the “natural constituency” for the MPRP is only about 7 or 8%, more than 20% of voters were either convinced by Ganbaatar’s campaign (strikes me as unlikely, see my impressions) or cast their ballot in protest against dominance of politics by MAHAH.

They voted in numbers equal to the last presidential election and some of the drop from last year’s parliamentary election might be attributed to the stifling heat.

I think that democracy is alive and well.

Campaigns Matter

Even when many Mongolians seem to think that only money matters in elections, some of the result can probably be attributed to campaigning. Not the substance of the platforms (which I’ve written about), but the personal qualities of the candidates. Put simply, Battulga was a much better campaigner than many expected and Enkhbold possibly even worse than expected.

Battulga seemed at ease in large as well as small forums and gained momentum by more and more support from DP grandees over the course of the campaign. This was also visible in the TV debate between the candidates. Battulga seemed at ease and even somewhat charming.

Not Enkhbold. He almost never smiled during the campaign, does not connect with audiences (even partisan ones) and simply does not build enthusiasm for his candidacy. While some may argue that a portion of Mongolian voters appreciate the dour-apparatchik demeanour as a signal of seriousness, I think many do not.

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5 Responses to Presidential Elections: 3 Things Happened

  1. Bill Rafoss says:

    I agree that the big news, or one of the bigger stories, is the surprise of the MPRP vote. Now the question becomes: will the MPP and MPRP form some type of alliance to over-take the Democrats? There is historical jealousy between the two (MPP/MPRP), but neither have any love for the DP. The combined MPRP/MPP vote is upwards of 60% versus the DP’s 38%. Hang on to your hats, folks!

    • I don’t think you can turn the 30% Ganbaatar vote into a movable asset for Enkbold or Battulga. If I’m right that the actual MPRP support is less than 10%, then there are around 20% protest voters, I would suspect, who will not be swayed necessarily by an Enkhbayar endorsement of anyone. On the other hand, they may be more likely to vote Battulga to prevent MPP dominance.

  2. Marissa J. Smith says:

    I’m not so surprised by Ganbaatar’s (/MPRP’s/Enkhbayar’s) showing, and definitely staying tuned to them and theirs.

    Could you elaborate on what you mean by their “natural constituency?”

  3. The Sant Maral March 2017 survey is very interesting for showing popularity of Enkhbayar especially, but also Ganbaatar in some places, but not of MPRP… I was reading back some of the 2012 posts and comments on the blog from the 2012 elections and remembering that there was a similar trend of not taking MPRP very seriously, while taking Enkhbayar quite seriously!

    I think the case of MPRP/Enkhbayar & Ganbaatar is more extreme, but I would argue that politicians generally trump party among Mongolian electorate… people will switch between parties. I don’t know of any survey research addressing this off the top of my head, but will check some studies.

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