Ganbaatar Voters in 2nd Round

By Julian Dierkes

Ganbaatar received roughly 30% of the votes in the June 26 presidential election. One of the big questions about the July 7 2nd Round of voting is thus whom those Ganbaatar voters will support.

Enkhbayar Negotiations

To the extent that an official endorsement from the MPRP might be in play, that will most likely be determined by party chair Enkhbayar, not by Ganbaatar as the (former) candidate. [BUT SEE PS BELOW.]

If nothing else, frm president N Enkhbayar is a clever tactician, and seems to have become even more wily since being convicted for customs violations some years ago.

When there were no protests at all on the day after the election despite the sour taste that the trajectory of Ganbaatar’s initial lead over Enkhbold took Monday night, I suspected that various officials had prevailed on Enkhbayar to keep quiet, partly because of the lingering trauma from the July 1, 2008 riots and deaths. I also suspected that Enkhbayar would clearly look at this as an opportunity to negotiate, especially since the revisions to the criminal code that take effect July 1, seem to make him eligible for office again so that negotiations may be much more attractive to him than a lingering chance for a Ganbaatar presidency via protests might have been Tuesday morning.

And indeed, Mongolian media reported a lengthy meeting between Enhbayar and Enkhbold.

What might Enkhbayar be hoping for?

Should an endorsement by the MPRP put Enkhbold over the top, he’d have to resign from his parliamentary seat. That would be filled in a by-election that Enkhbayar could presumably run in. Obviously, there would be a DP and other party candidates, so the MPP would not be able to promise that seat, but it might be Enkhbayar’s best chance back into parliament.

More intriguing rumours suggest that Enkhbayar might be gunning for Prime Minister under a President Enkhbold. Now that would be a combination and a stunning comeback for the former president!

The third scenario is that if the blank ballot campaign succeeds at derailing the 2nd round of voting by holding both candidates to under 50% of the vote and causing a whole new election, Enkhbayar himself could presumably run for president in that election.

Electoral Calculations

But would Enkhbold (or Battulga) be well-advised to negotiate with Enkhbayar? The 30% of votes that Ganbaatar achieved are a tempting prize, of course. But it seems fairly doubtful that Enkhbayar would be able to “deliver” those votes to another candidate through an endorsement.

Recall that the level of party support for the MPRP seems to be somewhere around 7-8% judging by results in the 2013 and 2016 elections. So, more than two thirds of Ganbaatar’s 30% (or around 20% of the total vote) are swing or protest voters. Even if the loyal MPRP voters would follow Enhbayar’s endorsement, is there any likelihood that the remaining voters would?

If they are indeed protest voters, then they were protesting against DP-MPP dominance and are thus unlikely to support the DP or MPP candidate.

For those protest voters deciding to support either of the remaining candidates, it would be more likely to be Battulga to create a balance against MPP parliamentary dominance.

Or, such protest voters might choose to join the “white ballot” campaign to turn in blank ballots in the hopes of derailing the election with these candidates entirely. Or, they might simply stay home, depressing turnout which is still likely to be an advantage for Enkhbold, but an Enkhbayar endorsement or not probably has little to do with whether voters choose to participate or not.

It thus strikes me as pretty unlikely that large number of Ganbaatar voters would vote for Enkhbold calling the rationale behind negotiations with the MPP into question.

P.S.: Did Ganbaatar Just Endorse “None of the Above”?

In a press conference on June 30, Ganbaatar now seems to have resigned to his fate of (according to him) having been cheated out of the chance to compete in the second route voting. Instead, he seems to have endorsed the While Ballot (): “Саналын хуудсыг цагаан хэвээр нь уншуулахыг уриалж байна.”

If he continues to call for Mongolians to vote with a blank ballot, that is very likely to have a significant effect on the election as it will increase the number of blank ballots from 1.5% in the first round. Any increase in this number will make it more difficult for any candidate to receive 50% of valid votes.

About Julian Dierkes

Julian Dierkes is a sociologist by training (PhD Princeton Univ) and a Mongolist by choice and passion since around 2005. He teaches in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He tweets @jdierkes
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