Choosing Balance

By Julian Dierkes

At first glance (including my initial thoughts some weeks ago), it would seem that last year’s MPP triumph in the parliamentary election should make M Enkhbold, the MPP’s candidate, the clear favourite in this year’s presidential election.

He has been party chairman for some time, led the MPP into last year’s election, installed J Erdenebat as prime minister last summer and has served as UIX chairman since then. The sheer scale of the election victory last year should really speak to voters’ preference for Enkhbold’s leadership.

But Not So Fast…

  1. Did voters really elect the MPP last year? Many of them probably threw the DP out of office more than that they chose the MPP.
  2. M Enkhbold does not seem to be particularly popular. He is certainly not very charismatic, but many voters simply don’t seem to warm up to him very much. He seems fairly wooden and doesn’t display any obvious empathy with many voters. This lack of popularity is more important in the presidential contest than in the parliamentary election because this is a direct election of a single person. Even with the majoritarian voting system employed last year, voters were selecting MPs as part of a party and potential government. In the presidential election, they are directly electing a person as president, making personality and personal characteristics perhaps more important.
  3. In speaking to (a very much not random sample of) campaign activists and workers, the enthusiasm for his candidacy even in the MPP seems relatively low. It might also be the generally low-energy nature of the campaign so far (the fact that DP and MPRP activists are also not enthused about their candidates speaks to that), but that seems especially true of the MPP which should be self-confident and delighted in their current political dominance.
  4. There are few distinctions between the party platforms (scroll through http://blogs.ubc.ca/mongolia/category/politics/elections/presidential-2017/ to read summaries of the platforms and also some analyses), making personality even more important as a criterion.
  5. But, in addition, given their lack of any particular enthusiasm for the MPP last year, some voters may consider it important to balance the current political dominance of the MPP and a vote against Enkbold (Battulga, Ganbaatar or a blank/spoiled ballot) in the first and second rounds might be exactly that. So, perhaps voters will choose another candidate not as an endorsement of that person or their platform, but simply as not-MPP.

It is totally unclear to what numerical portion of the electorate some such reasoning might apply and what impact it will have on turnout or the result, but it is a logic that several Mongolians have articulated to me recently.

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