By Marissa J. Smith
Last week I wrote a post overviewing the final section of the Democratic Party candidate S. Erdene’s campaign platform. I have had a chance since to read the remainder of the program closely, and am struck by the rest of the program’s specificity as well.
So what, you may ask? Especially now that the vote has come in, with Erdene dead last, with only six percent of the vote (just ahead of the “blank ballot” vote).
The DP platform intrigues me because it calls out with specificity issues with human rights and governance that have been at the forefront of policy debates for months, and though they have not been named in either the MPP (nor, notably, the KhUN) platforms, are not likely to go away. Their presence in Erdene’s platform also, I think, hints that there may be more unity in the DP than they have been given credit for (though the DP itself seems unlikely to be the vehicle through which these issues will be pressed, in the near term at least).
Balance of Power
While naming constitutional limits on the powers of the President, limits aggressively pursued by the MPP during the term of the DP president Battulga, the DP platform of candidate Erdene makes very specific proposals to change the structure of government. The platform points out remaining concerns about the powers of the National Security Council, and the hierarchical structure of prosecutors’ organization, as in need of reform. Limiting the investigation of grand corruption to the Anti-Corruption Agency is also proposed. These are in alignment with issues that have been at the forefront of conversations about political reform for some time now, but again, are absent from the MPP platform. (In this vein, Enkhbat’s platform is notable for calling for a legalization of the proportional electoral system, 4.3.)
In proposals that are more directed at checking the MPP’s power (and perhaps also checking loss of centralized control on the part of the DP), the DP platform also proposes to increase transparency over party finances, and to place limits on the elaboration of local party organization. (“Considering the huge amount of empty politicization and divisions at the primary and middle levels of government, a policy will be developed to create a legal environment that restricts the establishment of branches and units of political parties at the soum, bagh, district and khoroo levels.“)
As with the excerpts I previously covered, there is detail the DP platform about pressing human rights issues. While the MPP platform merely names “freedom of the press” as a human right that will be protected, the DP platform states (albeit in a section on anti-corruption) that it will protect whistleblowers (Mongolia has no whistleblower protection law). As previously covered, however, the platform also proposes to “abolish criminal liability for exercising freedom of the press.” The MPP platform notably makes no mention of Mongolia’s horrifying record of violence against women documented in 2017 by the UNFPA, and according to the UNDP of additional concern during the pandemic, while the DP platform calls attention even to workplace harassment (while gains have been made criminalizing domestic violence against women, sexual harassment has not yet been criminalized, despite the activism of many Mongolian women).
There is some overlap with the MPP’s platform. Both include statements about relationships with the global Mongolian diaspora, including with children who have been born abroad. Both also highlight the European Union in statements in the platform about broadening visa-free travel for Mongolian citizens. Both platforms also highlight violence against children as an issue to be tackled. Finally, while the DP lacks the detail of the MPP’s program on specific “mega-projects” and development plans for particular cities and regions, it is notable that the DP program states that only “at least ten percent” of state enterprises such as Erdenet be privatized via the Mongolian stock exchange.
Divergences on Military, Foreign Relations
While both the MPP and the DP platforms discuss third neighbor policies and the military, there are notable differences. The DP platform highlights a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with the US and Japan as a goal, while the MPP platform notes “third neighbors,” but the only two countries specifically named are Russia and China. (Reference to “two foreign global languages” in secondary and higher education, “once the mother tongue is mastered,” is also made.) Regarding the military, the DP names a “Strong and Fast Army” program with recruitment of university students in computer technology, math, physics, and a focus on cyber security. On the other hand, the MPP platform proposes broader military participation — “The military unit and branch should be developed as a school for patriotic upbringing of young people, physical development, mental strength, acquisition of certain professions, human development environment and civic development” (2.2.9) and programs of military training for university and high school students( (3.1.15) (perhaps recognizing the fallout over Oyun-Erdene’s comments on the occasion of this past Women’s Day, young women’s participation is proposed to be strictly voluntary.)