One of the classic belittling methods among Mongolian political candidates has been to call each other an ethnic hybridity of either Chinese or Russian and Mongolian. This causes one to engage in fruitless defensive effort to prove his/her Mongolian origins whereas the other to use all available schemes to spread the hybridity rumours (erliiz, hurliiz). Very few stand up for the victim because s/he could fall into the same hybridity category. Everyone Mongolian can recall or tell story about this ‘hybridity and origins’ fight, starting from kindergarten to universities. It does more emotional and mental harm to individuals since the issue cannot be resolved scientifically and/or officially. Once it becomes political, it can easily erode the social capital of the community and nation – ‘the unity.’
Ethnicity Questions in Past Elections
In this election, we are about to witness very familiar debates. Tweets, posts, and rumours about hybridity of all three candidates are out. This was the case for many presidential candidates, Ochirbat (in 1993 and 1997), Enkhsaikhan (2005), and Elbegdorj (2009) were framed and attacked respectively. At the most dramatic scene, President Elbegdorj flew to his home province and asked his mother about his father’s ethnicity with tears in his eyes. In reality, this could be labeled as an interesting ‘diversion tactic’ for the election. It directs the voters’ attention to endless, nonsense debate and rumours while putting their opponents in difficult situations since there is no simple, effective solution.
More Important Issues
But, this diverts voters’ attention from many important issues. Here are some critical issues for the presidential candidates in this election. Voters should know where these candidates stand and whether they have practical, lasting solutions.
Foreign Policy – instead of triggering rumours about hybridity, candidates should be presenting their strategies on foreign policy. In a new geopolitical environment, Mongolia needs to take advantage of the Chinese regional economic initiatives, to cultivate Russian economic and security interests, and to consolidate its ties with ‘third neighbours.’ A small state, with little capacity to influence policies in major capitals, should pursue unified and sustainable foreign policies – rather than, as happened in last several years, President, Prime Minister, and Speaker rush to the same capital (Tokyo or Berlin) within a few days solely for their personal, party, and may be governmental branch (institutional) interests. Voters and professionals at the foreign service need to know if the new president continue these uncoordinated foreign policy endeavours or endorse professionally-driven, pragmatic foreign policies.
Judiciary & Law Enforcement – all public polls and the majority of reports, foreign and domestic alike, have been demonstrating the societal wish for justice and the rule of law. Efforts to reform and, especially, to increase the independence of the judicial and law enforcement were plenty in the past. But, none of these reforms have been complete and fully satisfactory. Probably all, (except those benefiting or having ability to protect their rights within the current system), want to see the judiciary and key law enforcement agencies (e.g., anti-corruption and police) investigate and penalize corruption cases effectively. These institutions exist, people want justice, and professionals need political assurances. Will the next president fight to provide the political assurances and professional freedom to judiciary and law enforcement to bring the justice? Will the president improve the institutional resilience of these organizations to withstand against political-economic factions or influential individuals?
Public Service – the most debated theme during all elections. But, the winning party (DP in 1996, MPP in 2000, DP in 2012, MPP in 2016) forgets its pre-election promises. Fine laws, (with clear purpose of depoliticizing the public service) were approved, revised, and publicized. Again, party leaders forgot to implement. The professional meritocracy was briefly re-introduced by Prime Minister Bayar in 2008/2009 and talked by DP leaders in 2012. However, because of the cartellization of the party and factional competition, party leaders couldn’t reach their election promises of making the public service – professional, apolitical, and continuous. The trading of the public offices began in the late 90s by both DP and then MPP. During the coalition governments (2004-2008, 2012-2016), coalition governments divided up specific ministries, agencies, and state-owned enterprises as if it was the privatization process of the government (cabinet). Now, voters and public servants are entitled to know whether the next president makes any promises and commitments to the public service. Will the president make either professional or political merits in changing public servants in security organizations? Or, will the president to end the politicization of the public service by making it a true policy ‘gatekeepers’ in the era of populism?
These could be main themes for this presidential election, rather than engaging in childlike, never-ending, fruitless hybridity debates and rumours. As professional politicians, candidates lay out their foreign policy approaches and explain practical plans to de-politicize the judiciary, law-enforcement, and public service. All these institutions, in turn with support from a strong president, stop the cartellization of political parties and trading of professional posts. Otherwise, the profit-based structuralization of parties would NOT increase the public trust, raise the confidence of public servants/professionals, and gain support from business sectors.