Guest Post: Electoral District Demographic Analysis

By Robert Ritz

The current election saw a switch back to the block voting system used in 1992 and 2008. This system has both positives and negatives, and this system has much larger election districts than the previous single-member districts of the 2016 election. This allows us to more easily analyze the districts with the available data.

To put all of the data together and make it user friendly, I built Songolt, an interactive data explorer that allows the reader to see key indicators of election districts. The indicators covered in the app include:

  • Population indicators: population, household size, herder percent, age group breakdown
  • Economic indicators (self-reported): salary, household loans, employment, education levels
  • Quality of life indicators: crime, house type, toilet & water type, heating type

The data was collected from 1212.mn and also the Household Socioeconomic Survey of 2016, which is the latest survey that contains precise geographic labeling. Both data sources are maintained by the National Statistics Office of Mongolia.

Several themes developed through my research into this data. These themes are perhaps not surprising for many readers familiar with Mongolia, but it is never a bad thing to back up observations with data. I encourage you, the reader, to explore the app yourself (link), but below I give an overview of the themes for your convenience.

Ulaanbaatar vs Countryside

Perhaps the best-known difference in Mongolia is that of Ulaanbaatar and the countryside. The image of busy urban Ulaanbaatar juxtaposed with the bucolic countryside could hardly be more different. Indeed the data shows significant differences in many areas. Let’s compare the population pyramid for the election district with the highest population, Songinokhairkhan District in Ulaanbaatar, with the least populace, Bulgan Aimag.

There is an obvious population difference, but the size of the age groups also shows a marked difference between the two. Where you have a large spike in the 20–40 age group in Songinokhairkhan, Bulgans’ age groups have much less variability and are quite flat from 15–50. You will see a similar trend in the highest population election districts compared with the least populated ones.

This means the voting demographics in rural areas are more widely distributed than in urban areas. D.Byambjav and E.Gerelt-Od previously discussed the large and less engaged block of voters under 35. If youth engagement initiatives are successful, this block of voters will be less powerful in rural districts that have a similar age distribution to Bulgan.

Employment differs significantly as well between Ulaanbaatar and most rural districts. Rural election districts tend to show significantly higher rates of overall employment than the urban ones. In the chart above, the “employed percentage” refers to the proportion of the working-age population that is employed. Urban districts tend to have between 45–55% employment, with rural districts between 65–75%.

Salaries are also significantly higher in Ulaanbaatar. The salaries shown above are self-reported from 2016, but they show a very clear picture. Employment levels may be higher in rural areas, but salary levels are conversely lower. This is an obvious area where the economic policy of the party platforms could address these inequalities.

Outliers: Mining Areas and Bayan-Ulgii

The Ulaanbaatar vs countryside theme may be the biggest theme in the data, it doesn’t give the full picture. There are two sets of outliers that “buck the trend”.

The first is that the two primary mining areas of Mongolia, Erdenet (in Orkhon) and Oyu Toloig (in Umnugovi), show significantly higher salaries, lower loan rates, and higher educations than other rural election districts.

This bubble plot shows the percent of households with loans vs monthly average salaries in each election district. The two highlighted in red are Orkhon (lower right) and Umnugovi (upper left). All of the bubbles above 550k average monthly salary except for the two in red are located in Ulaanbaatar.

These two election districts (and the urban workforce where the company offices are) have benefited heavily from the mining industry of Mongolia. Industrialization as proposed in the party platforms would most likely further benefit these areas, as this is where the raw materials would come from.

The second outlier is Bayan-Ulgii. In the chart above, the red bubble to the farthest left is Bayan-Ulgii, and the red bubble on the far right is Khan-Uul District. The average household size is 5.2, significantly larger than the most populace district Songinokhairkhan of 3.8. Besides larger family sizes, Bayan-Ulgii has the lowest average monthly salary.

Ulaanbaatar Districts Have Diverse Needs

The districts of Ulaanbaatar also show diverse needs. Every district also contains part of the ger district. This means that there is a mix of urban and peri-urban in every election district of Ulaanbaatar. In the center of the city, households are connected to the central water, heating, and sewage systems. In the ger district, living standards become sharply different, with no central heat or water connections.

The unique layout of the city districts ensures that at least 20% of the population of each district uses pit toilets and wood or coal for heat. More than 40% of Khan-Uul district households, the most affluent election district in Mongolia, use ordinary wood and coal stoves for heat.

MPs Will Represent Very Diverse Groups

Regardless of the outcome of the election, it is clear that the needs of citizens in election districts are not uniform, and even the common trope of UB vs the rest doesn’t hold up completely. Even though Mongolia a small country with a heavy focus on mining, it isn’t clear that the party platforms address the inequalities mentioned above.

While the economics platforms of the DP, MPP, and Right Person Electorate all focus on heavy industry, it isn’t clear how heavy industry would help rural areas outside of the main mining areas lacking in high paying jobs, or whether it would increase employment levels in Ulaanbaatar.

About Robert Ritz

Robert Ritz is an educator and data scientist. He is the Director of LETU Mongolia American University, Mongolia’s only 100% English business school. He also created Mongolian Data Stories and tweets @robertritz88

Posted in Countryside, Demography, Employment, Ikh Khural 2020, Inequality, Infrastructure, Mining, Population, Robert Ritz, Social Issues, Ulaanbaatar | Leave a comment

Guest Post: Women’s Voter Turnout – Substantial Reverse Gender Gap

By Camille Barras 

Previous posts in Mongolia Focus have addressed the issue of women’s political representation, for example concerning the share of candidates in the upcoming elections. Women’s participation as voters is another important facet of women political empowerment. In a post about the 2016 and 2017 elections, Julian Dierkes observed that the number of women voters exceeded men’s in nearly all aimags and districts. Was this just a demographic effect (there are indeed more women than men in the age categories 30-34 and beyond)?

Not only, according to NSO statistics: women’s voter turnout (# voters / # registered voters) was actually higher than men’s by 6 percentage points on average in the 2016 parliamentary election. Estimating voter turnout by gender for each electoral district (see Table 1, estimates for 2016), it appears that this reverse gender gap exists across all electoral districts and holds for several elections, namely the 2016 parliamentary election, and the first round and runoff of the 2017 presidential election (with the exception of Bayan-Ulgii in the two presidential election rounds).

Electoral district – 2016 parliamentary elections

 Gender gap (female-male)

 Female turnout

 Male turnout

 Bayan-Ulgii

    0.030

    0.894

    0.864

 Sukhbaatar (aimag)

    0.040

    0.839

    0.799

 Uvs

    0.045

    0.871

    0.827

 Khovd

    0.050

    0.837

    0.787

 Govi-Altai

    0.057

    0.831

    0.774

 Dornogovi

    0.061

    0.774

    0.713

 Arkhangai

    0.062

    0.820

    0.758

 Dornod

    0.072

    0.759

    0.688

 Umnugovi

    0.075

    0.772

    0.696

 Tuv

    0.076

    0.792

    0.716

 Bayankhongor

    0.076

    0.844

    0.768

 Zavkhan

    0.081

    0.881

    0.801

 Khentii

    0.084

    0.819

    0.735

 Bulgan

    0.085

    0.797

    0.712

 Bayanzurkh

    0.092

    0.751

    0.659

 Dundgovi

    0.092

    0.807

    0.715

 Selenge

    0.093

    0.776

    0.683

 Khuvsgul

    0.093

    0.784

    0.691

 Uvurkhangai

    0.095

    0.811

    0.716

 Orkhon

    0.097

    0.754

    0.658

 Songinokhairkhan

    0.097

    0.759

    0.661

 Govisumber

    0.099

    0.826

    0.727

 Khan-Uul+ Bagakhangai

    0.107

    0.799

    0.691

 Nalaikh + Chingeltei

    0.110

    0.751

    0.641

 Baganuur + Sukhbaatar (district)

    0.112

    0.777

    0.665

 Bayangol

    0.115

    0.789

    0.674

 Darkhan-Uul

    0.129

    0.771

    0.642

[Table 1. Voter turnout estimate: number of (wo)men voters in electoral district / (total registered voters for both genders in district *share of (wo)men in elect. district in year of election) (data: GEC/NSO).]

Reverse gender gap in voter turnout not unique, but sizable

Such “reverse” gender gaps in voter turnout are not exceptional, as in many countries women vote as much or more than men since several decades now – studies notably point out that women have a stronger sense of “civic duty”. Yet the size of the difference in Mongolia seems quite large in international comparison. Also, a hint that this gender gap might even hold in local elections (female turnout in Songinokhairkhan district: 49.4%; male: 41.7%) is rather at odds with evidence that a traditional gender gap (that is, higher male voter turnout) still subsists in subnational elections in other countries.

Why is that the case? While a comprehensive and accurate answer would require further research, it can be said that Mongolia is relatively closer to (but still far from!) gender parity on global average in regard to a number of “structural” indicators that are usually thought to matter as factors of political participation. Going with WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report from the year of the last elections, Mongolia fares indeed better comparatively in terms of economic opportunity but also educational achievement (female/male ratio for labour force participation: 0.84; for income: 0.74; for enrolment in tertiary education: 1.38).

Within-country variation of reverse gender gap

The size of the reverse gender gap varies substantially between constituencies. Eastern and Western aimags have a smaller gap (that is, they are more “equal”) – a pattern consistent across elections, as evident from the maps below. The gap is larger in urban areas (UB districts and secondary cities) and almost reaches 13 percentage points in Darkhan-Uul. It also seems that men’s voter turnout (64% to 86%) has a wider range than women’s (77% to 89%) (2016 election). Places with a smaller gender gap, such as Bayan-Ulgii, actually tend to have a high male turnout rate, rather than low female participation.

 

 

 

[Gender gap based on voter turnout estimates (GEC/NSO)]

The reasons behind these differences between electoral districts in Mongolia are hard to elicit due to lack of data. Rough preliminary analyses limited to socio-economic indicators do not support that either gender differences in education nor workforce integration are at play. A glance at the aimags with the lowest and highest gender gaps in turnout (Table 2) suggests that the gender gap might mainly come from differences in men’s turnout– perhaps logics of (male voters’) mobilization differ across aimags?

Voter turnout (estimates)

Average of 2016 parliamentary elections and 2017 presidential elections (2 rounds)

Gender gap (female-male)

Female 

Male 

3 aimags with lowest gender gap (Bayan-Ulgii, Khovd, Sukhbaatar)

0.03

0.73

0.70

3 aimags with highest gender gap (Darkhan-Uul, Govisumber, Uvurkhangai)

0.11

0.72

0.61

[Table 2]

Will this reverse gender gap persist – and to a similar extent – in the 2020 elections, and beyond? The female-male ratio among registered voters for the upcoming election (52% – 48%) looks identical to what it was in 2016 (which had an estimated 1,003,500 registered female voters and 934,400 male voters). Given the size of the gap in voter turnout and its consistency across elections (2016 parliamentary, 2017 presidential and probably 2016 aimag and soum-level elections), it is quite plausible that this is a structural trend that will hold on the long run. It would nevertheless be worth looking at how the gap has changed in different electoral districts and whether the difference between urban and rural areas has widened or narrowed.

About Camille Barras

Camille is a PhD candidate in Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on subnational governance and political engagement. Before that, she worked in International Development, and lived in Mongolia for her last posting.

Posted in Camille Barras, Demography, Elections, Gender, Ikh Khural 2016, Ikh Khural 2020, Presidential 2017 | Leave a comment

Comparing Party Election Platforms: Education

By Byambajav Dalaibuyan and Mendee Jargalsaikhan

Education is one of high priority issues in political party campaign platforms. We choose three campaign platforms, – the Mongolian People’s Party, the Democratic Party, and the Right Person Electorate, a coalition of the National Labor Party (HUN), Mongolian Social Democratic Party, and Zui Yos Party. All three addressed challenges for pre-schooling, the secondary school system and vocational and higher education.

Instead of comparing every aspects of their educational policies, we compared how they addressed four main challenges that have been emphasized in research reports and policy discussions in the last several years: (1) the inequality of access to quality education, (2) skills and values, (3) inclusion and rights of children, and (4) teacher development and school management. Furthermore, because all parties promise to improve the quality and access of vocational and high education, we compared their policy priorities in this regard. 

The inequality of access to quality education

The segregation of schools along the lines of the public vs. private and urban vs. rural  is a vivid expression of social inequality in Mongolia. On the one hand, Mongolia already has several layers of expensive private schools and public model schools and on the other hand, overcrowded and under-funded public schools. Children in the second group have less opportunities to get education that can help them pursue their educational and occupational dreams. In recent years, for example, Ikon.mn has presented data analyses of widening gaps in school education, including exam scores between the first and second groups of schools, and facilitated a lot of discussion on this important issue.  

MPP’s platform gave more emphasis on infrastructure development. The party promises to build 273 new kindergartens and 200 schools and make the transition from double shifts to one shift at 80% of all schools. These are very optimistic numbers if we look at the development of the number of kindergartens and schools in the past 5 years. 

Number of kindergartens and schools

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Kindergarten 1288 1354 1416 1435 1439
Schools 768 778 798 803 820

Source: 1212.mn

The MPP wants to establish “model schools that have international standards and meet quality requirements” in every aimag and Ulaanbaatar districts. In 2010, the MPP-led cabinet initiated a program on integrating Cambridge standards into secondary school curriculum and established the first “model schools with Cambridge curriculum” in Ulaanbaatar. So, it seems that MPP wants to scale-up this program. But will these “models” or another layer of schools help Mongolia’s children get equal access to good education?     

The DP noted serious achievement discrepancies between urban and rural schools as well as private and public schools. The party proposes a “national program on eliminating gaps in education quality.” The platform does not provide any details about the program and its specific targets.  

The DP sets a target that the maximum number of children in one classroom should not exceed more than 30. Again, no details are provided when and how this should be achieved. Surely, this allows DP candidates to make promises on building new schools and kindergartens in their electoral districts to compete with many MPP candidates, who had “built” new ones and promised more.      

The platform of the “Right Person-Electorate” includes a number of ways to address the inequality of access to quality education: (1) transition to one shifts at all schools, (2) improvement of the learning environment and resources, (3) targeted teacher development policies, and (4)student-centred flexibility in high schools (subject selection and apprenticeship options). 

Skills and values

Do the campaign platforms propose any changes in curriculum content? If so, what values and skills do they emphasize?  

All platforms highlight the importance of Mongolian culture, history, tradition, heritage, lifestyle, and language in the national curriculum. However, we can see some interesting differences.  

The MPP promises to integrate more content on national history, culture, patriotic thinking, and respect for national values into the national curriculum and implement it at all schools. In fact, the platform does not highlight any other skills and values.

The DP promises to re-introduce the “Right Mongol Child” program that the DP-led government implemented in 2012-2016. The program focused on instilling creative and independent thinking skills and national pride of history, culture and tradition. In addition, DP proposes to make English a compulsory second language. The party also emphasized the importance of digital literacy and promised to integrate it into the national curriculum.   

“The Right Person-Electorate” presents very detailed steps for curriculum reform, including the introduction of student-centred assessment methods, digital skills and life skills. However, they emphasize the importance of stability of the national curriculum. They propose a mandatory practicum of all school children at herder families to learn Mongolian culture and nomadic way of living. Of course, the full implementation of this idea will not be easy but it seems to exemplify their emphasis more on culture, values and ethics rather than patriotism and pride.

The inclusion and rights of children

All three parties include goals on improving online and distance education. The importance of online and distance learning has became clear as the pandemic outbreak forced all educational institutions to find ways to continue schooling. Negative impacts of the current COVID pandemic on children’s educational achievement have been more acute for disadvantaged and poor families.  All campaign platforms include a number of policy options on enhancing the rights of children to education and healthy and safe environment. This ranges from improving toilets to building sporting/cultural facilities and, to accommodating special needed students. 

Policies on children’s rights and safety

MPP DP Right Person-Electorate
To enable children with physical and special needs to study at regular schools To implement a program on supporting professionals who work with children with special needs To support program on full school enrolment of children with disabilities
To replace pit toilets at all schools and kindergartens  by modern toilets  To require all school buildings to have special stairs and rumps  To implement programs on prevention of bullying
To develop home schooling programs for 6-8 years old children of herder families  To implement independent auditing of the land use of schools and to advocate child-friendly environment 

Teacher support and development

All three parties promise to increase teacher salaries. Teachers’ unions organized nation-wide strikes and demonstrations in 2018 to demand salary increases. In the 2020 budget, the MPP increased teacher salaries by 8% (from about MNT760,000 to MNT840,00). The party promised to increase salaries further in its platform but in line with inflation rates. The DP and “Right Person-Electorate” promises to increase teacher salaries to the level of the national average salary (currently MNT953,000). 

All three parties emphasize the importance of teacher development in education. The MPP proposes to implement a “Skillful Teacher Program” that focuses on continuous skill development through domestic and international training programs. The DP will implement a “New Teacher Program” and focus on improving teacher training institutes and allocating more budget for teacher re-training and development programs. The “Right Person-Electorate” will implement a “1000 Teacher Program” for teacher training and international exchange, encourage students to study at teacher training universities through scholarship programs, and support teachers in remote regions. 

School management

One of the major challenges for all educational institutions has been the increased politicization of secondary schools and kindergartens following the changes in the political landscape (e.g., post election, change in the parliament and cabinet, and even after political changes in the aimag and soum governance). Political parties or influential politicians use the leadership posts of secondary and kindergarten to reward party supporters or members or those with a personal connection. This undermines the merit-based principle for school management and faculty development at these schools. Thus it impacts the quality of the education. The MPP promises to keep schools from political influences and enforce merit-based appointment policies for school presidents and principals. The DP proposes to establish  “Educational Councils” of citizen representatives that will have a role in appointing and dismissing school principals. The “Right Person Electorate” promises to improve coordination between education authorities and institutions at national, regional and local levels. 

Vocational and high education 

All three platforms include promises on improving access to education loans. Similarly, they include promises on scholarships: scholarships for best students (MPP), scholarships for 10,000 students to study abroad (DP), and income and achievement based scholarships (Right Person Electorate). Notably, only the “Right Person Electorate” platform includes goals on improving transparency and accountability of government programs on education loans and scholarships. 

Vocational and high education goals in campaign platforms

MPP DP Right Person-Electorate
To establish university complexes as science and Innovation centres To increase university-based research institutes and laboratories and establish international science park To improve the governance of state universities and competition and cooperation among them
To increase the research and development budget of science and innovation institutes 4 times  To scale-up “1000 Engineer Program” to “10,000 Engineer Program” To enable getting university degree in three years
To establish branch universities in regional areas specialising in agriculture, mining, and food production To reform TVET curriculums and introduce programs for new skills and occupations To support private sector investment in innovation and science through tax and other incentives
To provide subsidized fee options for TVET students To prioritize support for programs on training science and engineering professions
To established intra-school facilities for practical training 

Conclusion

Our brief comparison of political parties campaign platforms shows that all parties consider education as a key policy area and seem to agree on some important challenges such as achievement discrepancies and inclusive and safe school environment. Their key strategies to solve these problems were very different. The “Right Person-Electorate” Coalition presented a quite comprehensive plan on key policy areas, especially education sector management. While MPP and DP addressed many important education policy problems, no clear overarching frameworks can be seen in their platforms. Many promises in their lists seem to be made to attract support from parents and youth. However, they didn’t spell out how they would see short-term, mid- and long term challenges. For example, the MPP’s proposal to scale-up the model school program seems to lack an adequate diagnosis of inequality of access to quality education.

Overall, we can expect from MPP more investment in schooling infrastructure and curriculum content changes highlighting national identity. DP will likely revisit the curriculum reform it implemented in 2012-2016, invest in schooling infrastructure and introduce citizen councils. The Right Person-Electorate Coalition will likely to advocate effective management of public funding and equal access to quality education through better policy tools.

Posted in Byambajav Dalaibuyan, Democratic Party, Education, Higher Education, Ikh Khural 2020, Mongolian People's Party, National Labor Party, Politics, Primary and Secondary Education, Uncategorized, Vocational | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Guest Post: Comparing Party Election Platforms: Economic Policy

By Ariuntuya Nominkhuu and Batbold Otgonbayar

Parties’ platforms contain numerous promises to restore the economy and create new jobs by expanding the heavy industry sector. This year’s elections are taking place against the backdrop of the unforeseen economic crisis caused by COVID-19. Many businesses closed their doors exacerbating the unemployment. Here we compare the platforms of Mongolian People’s Party (MPP), Democratic Party (DP), and the “Right Person Electorate” Coalition in regard to economic issues reflected in their mining policies.

Responding to a Pandemic and its Economic Impact

The Mongolian economy has already suffered with a drop of over ten percent in GDP in the first quarter of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. After the June 24 election we face a big crisis which is somehow pushed aside from public attention during the election campaign. As the crisis is to mainly unfold in the economic arena, we specifically looked into the party election platforms to analyze how they define their policies to cope with the crisis in order to reverse the economic downturn and to overcome the daunting challenge to repay the foreign debt. This follows up on our previous post that focused on proposals for mining policy.

Only the DP and MPP mentioned measures to deal with the challenges caused by the pandemic while other parties and political powers probably omitted such considerations because they do not hope to gain majority of seats in the parliament or do not perceive Covid-19 worth the mention (Монгол Улсын Үндэсний Аудитын газрын цахим хуудас, МАН мөрийн хөтөлбөр хуудас 24 – 2.1.15, АН мөрийн хөтөлбөр хуудас 11-12).

The MPP platform has a general statement that the Party shall

devise and implement a special plan to remove the socio-economic difficulties caused by Covid-19 pandemic, and to restore industry and service sectors, and take measures to compensate the livelihood income of the economic entities, organizatons and people who suffered income loss (Монгол Улсын Үндэсний Аудитын газрын цахим хуудас, МАН мөрийн хөтөлбөр хуудас 24 – 2.1.15).

The DP platform has a parallel section on “Special Policy during Crisis”. Both mentioned maintenance of jobs and special programs to support businesses, but the specific focus of the DP is on the promise to endorse a special program and package of laws on combating the pandemic at the first meeting of the new parliament (Монгол Улсын Үндэсний Аудитын газрын цахим хуудас, АН мөрийн хөтөлбөр хуудас 11-12).

General Economic Policies

The difference goes further in prioritization of the budget items for 2020 and specific planning on saving measures; loans to be provided to individuals and companies in order to overcome the crisis; support to be provided to the salary fund of the economic entities and organizations; tax cuts and etc. In order to raise funds for post-crisis restoration program, the Government promises to immediately issue necessary decisions, permits and concessions to mining and processing industry projects, particularly mentioned are the underground mining at Oyu Tolgoi and oil refinery in Dornogobi aimag.

The three political players compared here have promised to develop heavy industries in the coming four years, which would be something unseen for the last thirty years. The most avant-garde promises in the platforms are unlikely to make it beyond the proposal phase.

Let’s start from more humble proposals. “Right Person Electorate” Coalition wants to prioritize a copper refinery and metallurgical industry by providing VAT and corporate income tax exemptions for the first five years in case of establishment of a coking coal plant, steel plant, or coal processing chemical plant.

The DP promises to restore the metallurgical industry, to transform oil extractors into fuel producers, and ultimately to make the processing industry an economic pillar, a plant which includes its intention to establish steel, cast iron, copper, coal-chemical plants, oil refinery, and a plant to process rare earth elements phase by phase. In particular, they pledge to establish a copper ore refinery based on the Oyu Tolgoi deposit, coking coal-chemical plant based on the Tavan Tolgoi deposit, a metallurgical complex based on iron deposits in the Darkhan-Selenge region, tungsten production, coal chemical plant in Choir, coking coal plant in Gobisumber with an annual production of sixteen million tons, subsequently fifteen million ton cast iron, and a steel processing metallurgical complex.

The MPP promises the largest number of heavy industries involved in deep processing in the mining sector. According to the platform, our country would establish one heavy industry plant every quarter, and at the end of the next four years at least a dozen complexes are to come into operation. Let’s see some examples: oil refinery, Tavan Tolgoi coal-chemical, coking coal-chemical and methane plant, coal preparation plants shall be built to wash thirty million tons of coal, refinery for precious metals, gold, and copper, Baganuur district shall have a plant to produce synthetic gas from coal, Nalaikh district shall have the second “Tavan Tolgoi improved fuel plant”, Dornogobi aimag – iron and iron cast steel smelter, coking coal plant.

In addition, they are to build numerous railways and paved roads along with electricity stations. Again the MPP has the longest list. The list includes all projects that have been already discussed, planned and rejected for years. The DP’s list is comparable to it.

The “Right Person Electorate” Coalition’s list is the shortest but also the most realistic which made it easier to read and accept. They explained their policy which has the goal to build railroads to transport exported coal, increase the share of renewable energy and supply Oyu Tolgoi power from domestic sources, which sound close to home. The coalition platform contains the most unique concept which is to open the legal environment to allow foreign banks operate in Mongolia and thereby reduce the monthly business loan interest rate by one percent. This is a very brave step to address a topic that political powers shun the most.

The new Parliament and their new Government to be established after the elections are to bear unprecedented responsibilities. On one hand, they would face COVID-19 related economic challenges globally and in Mongolia, and, on the other hand, they must establish the new Government according to the amendments to the Constitution that have recently come into force. This entails the task to amend other relevant laws and to ensure the national development through comprehensive and coherent actions. If in the past voters made their choice based on the cash distributed or extravagant promises then this time it is highly likely that they would opt for the most realistic platform.

About Ariuntuya and Batbold

Ariuntuya Nominkhuu is a Journalist (Mining, Business and Economic) and Executive Director of Council for Sustainable Development and Social Responsibility (CSS) Mongolia. @Ariuna_n

Batbold Otgonbayar is a Political scientist and Resource Governance Researcher PhD candidate of German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer and Chairman of the Board of CSS Mongolia. @OBatbold

The Council for Sustainable Development and Social Responsibility (CSS) is a non-profit and non-governmental organization established with the aim of introducing and advancing best international and local practices in sustainable development and corporate social responsibility into the country’s mining sector. The CSS was established in 2015 by initiatives of sustainable development experts, lawyers and journalists.

Posted in Ariuntuya Nominkhuu, Banking, Batbold Otgonbayar, Business, Democratic Party, Diversification, Employment, Ikh Khural 2020, Mongolian People's Party, National Labor Party, Party Politics, Policy, Public Policy, Taxes | Leave a comment

Zoom: Mongolia Campaign Update

On June 12, roughly halfway through the parliamentary election campaign, we presented an update on the campaign via Zoom.

In this event, we provided an update on how the campaign is unfolding under COVID-19 restrictions. We discussed the campaign platforms of the dominant parties as well as some of the themes in the campaign literature of challengers to this dominance, especially mining policy.

Speakers include:

  • Dr. Marissa Smith, independent researcher
  • B BULGAN, incoming PhD student, Resources, Environment and Sustainability, UBC
  • Dr. Julian Dierkes, Associate Professor, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs
  • O BATBOLD, PhD student, German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer, and Chairman of the Board of the Council for Sustainable Development and Social Responsibility (CSS) Mongolia.

Here’s a recording of our presentation:

This discussion follows on a session we held on June 1 with an overview of parties, candidates, and issues.

Recoding of that session:

Posted in Ikh Khural 2020 | Leave a comment

Voter Demographics and Election Predictions

By Byambajav Dalaibuyan and Gerelt-Od Erdenebileg

In this short post, we want to share some basic data on eligible voters.

Eligible voters

According to the General Election Commission, the total number of eligible voters for the 2020 parliamentary election is 2,132,239. It was 1,932,300 in 2016.

48% of the eligible voters are male and 52% are female.


Data source: GEC

42.2% of all eligible voters are people younger than 35. Their participation rate has been low. As the National Statistics Office estimated, 50% of eligible voters aged between 18 and 25 did not vote in the 2016 parliamentary election. They will constitute about 15% of all voters this year. Many social initiatives were emerged this year to encourage youth participation. If they can increase youth turnout that can empower young and new candidates.

Electoral districts

We could not access information on the number of eligible voters in each electoral district. So, we cross-checked several sources of information to get approximate estimations. The largest electoral districts are Bayangol and Chingeltei. Except the combined district of Bagakhangai, Baganuur and Nalaikh, all capital city districts have about 90-100,000 voters and 23-38 candidates are competing to win 2-3 mandates in each district.

The smallest electoral districts are Govi-Altai and Sukhbaatar aimags, but there are several districts with about 40,000 voters.


Data source: GEC, opendatalab.mn and NSO

The results of the 2008 parliamentary election, which used a multi-member majoritarian system, shows that candidates had to receive on average 45% of votes to win the third mandate in three-mandate districts. Votes were very spread among candidates in capital city districts with the highest number of candidates, but they needed to receive average 39% of votes to win the last mandate.

In 2008, a difference in the number of votes between candidates who ranked third and fourth was very slight in several electoral districts: just 5-260 votes. Note that manual counting was used at the time and vote-counting disputes in part led to the post-election riot on July 1. Though electronic vote counting machines have been used since 2012 tense vote-counting disputes can still occur because of tight win-or-lose results.

Here, we can see an important role that youth can have in election results. Let’s take an example. Khan-Uul district has about 100,000 voters. About 10% of them are voters aged between 18 and 22 and another 10% are voters older than 60. Though their share in the total number of eligible voters are same their turnout rate is very different. 97% of the voters older than 60 voted in the last parliamentary election while the other 10,000 voters barely reached 50% only. The difference is about 5000 votes, which can be a decisive in tight races like the ones mentioned above.

If we apply the GEC on eligible voters and NSO report on the 2016 voter turnout in understanding voter demographics in Khan-Uul district, we obtain the following rough estimations:

Age Group Voters Turnout % in 2016 Turnout
Khan-Uul Eligible Voters 100,000 74% 74,000
18-22 years 10,000 50% 5,000
23-34 years 31,000 65% 20,150
35-47 years 28,000 77% 21,560
48-60 years 19,000 87% 15,630
60+ years 10,000 97% 9,700

If the turnout of voters aged 18-34 increases by 10% this year that is about 4100 new voters in the example of Khan-Uul district.

About Gerelt-Od

Dr. Gerelt-Od Erdenebileg is a political scientist and the senior lecturer of political science at MNUE, Ulaanbaatar. I had managed Election project of UNDP, Mongolia and have been studying political party, electoral system, women’s participation and democratization in Mongolia since 2000.

Posted in Byambajav Dalaibuyan, Demography, Gerelt-Od Erdenebileg, Ikh Khural 2020, Party Politics, Younger Mongolians | Tagged | Leave a comment

Guest Post: Comparing Party Election Platforms on Mining Policy

By Ariuntuya Nominkhuu and Batbold Otgonbayar

Right now we are living interesting pre-election days in Mongolia. Due to pandemic-related restrictions, the election with the largest number of candidates in the history of parliamentary elections of Mongolia or 606 people is to be carried out with all due precautions. For the first time in the history of elections three candidates who are not able to come to Mongolia due to pandemic quarantine are competing in these elections online from abroad. There is even one candidate who is participating in these elections from the prison. The elections look as exciting as any thriller.

We could count many more interesting facts and comparisons like the above, but let’s focus on what the political parties’ platforms say about their position on the mineral resource sector. These elections shall have enlarged districts and multiple mandates within the district where the competition will be predominantly between Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) and Democratic Party (DP) who have ruled this country in turns for the last thirty years. We have selected the “Right Person Electorate Coalition” as the strongest third opponent so far to compare its platform against the above-mentioned two.

The platforms of the selected three political powers paid due attention to mineral sector. Specifically they stated how they would manage the natural resources and revenues generated from them. Small political parties and coalitions consisting of such are vying for attention by unique propositions for mineral sector reform and some bordering on the grotesque in their policy proposals.

Exploration

Our attention was caught by the statement below:

Resolve once and for all issues faced in geological explorations and prospecting, and immediately launch geological explorations. Protect legitimate interests of investors, implement drastic reforms in complaint resolution and provide tax stability to the investment projects beneficial to the country.(Монгол Улсын Үндэсний Аудитын газрын цахим хуудас, АН мөрийн хөтөлбөр хуудас 14).

During the past four years of the MPP-led Government the main concept whereby the mineral licenses were provided for the last twenty years has changed. In 2017, the principle to provide licenses based on application was abandoned and is to be provided only based on selection that has limited the development in geological explorations and investment basically has come to naught. Subsequently the Government led by PM U Khurelsukh made the decision to stop granting exploration licenses at all throughout 2020. An eyecatching content from DP platform is the statement to immediately amend the Law on Minerals which would resolve complaints and disputes caused by the cancelling of licenses and confiscating the deposits where the exploration was conducted by the public funds during 2019-2020 and give the opportunity to the projects on halt. This idea becomes even clearer when you read the policy to be pursued in the mineral sector, that is to increase the resources and to grant mineral exploration licenses according to the international standards.(Монгол Улсын Үндэсний Аудитын газрын цахим хуудас, АН мөрийн хөтөлбөр хуудас 21).  Anyway, this is a more farsighted step in the geological exploration sector.

On the other hand, the MPP platform has two provisions on geological explorations.

Intensify geological exploration works conducted by government budget funds, increase the mineral resources, start economic utilization of deposits with estimated reserves and carry out fair distribution of wealth (Монгол Улсын Үндэсний Аудитын газрын цахим хуудас, МАН мөрийн хөтөлбөр хуудас 17-2.1.2).

Disclose mining licensing and cancel licenses granted in breach of the law (Монгол Улсын Үндэсний Аудитын газрын цахим хуудас, МАН мөрийн хөтөлбөр хуудас 33-4.2.1).

Please pay attention to the fact that it mainly refers to the government budget. This shows that the principles of selection in licensing would continue. The government will be predominantly involved in exploring and finding mineral resources, bearing huge risks associated with this exploration. Furthermore, as Mongolia lacks projects that would attract and intensify foreign investor’s interest besides exploration, this huge potential will be untapped.

As for the Right Person Electorate Coalition, despite the omission of the words “geological exploration” they promised to ensure stability for investment in the mining sector. Their platform mostly emphasizes the role of the private sector, responsibility and attracting foreign investment, which only stand out in contrast to the MPP approach of an increased government role.

Sovereign Wealth Funds, Their Legal Status and Purpose

Another principal issue in political platforms are sovereign funds. As the constitutional amendments which came into force on 25 May legalized the principle “to consolidate benefits of the mineral resources in the national sovereign fund and to ensure fair distribution”, the parties ought to announce their policies on wealth distribution.

The MPP devised a policy to pass a law on Sovereign Fund, increase revenues from the mining sector, create savings of at least one trillion MNT per annum, invest the funds in financial instruments, increase the funds and make investments in the large national projects to diversify the economy. Subsequently they are to establish a National Housing Corporation, and together with the General Fund of Savings and National Sovereign Fund to help hundred fifty thousand households to obtain apartments. Also, they stated that

When operating the mineral deposits in line with the principle, that the natural resources belong to the people legal regulations will be made to ensire that their benefits are distributed to the majority of people (Монгол Улсын Үндэсний Аудитын газрын цахим хуудас, МАН мөрийн хөтөлбөр хуудас 27-3.1.2).

At this state it is impossible to identify whether they mean the law on sovereign fund that they plan to pass or a different new law.

Proceeds from Mining Projects

Also it has defined that the proceeds from the natural resources would be distributed to the people in the following way:

Increase opportunites for national SMEs to work as suppliers to such large companies as Oyu tolgoi and Erdenet (Монгол Улсын Үндэсний Аудитын газрын цахим хуудас, МАН мөрийн хөтөлбөр хуудас 7-1.1.15).

Increase the benefits for Mongolia from Oyu Tolgoi and other mining projects, establish Social Responsibility Fund to support individuals with low and middle income (Монгол Улсын Үндэсний Аудитын газрын цахим хуудас, МАН мөрийн хөтөлбөр хуудас 7-1.1.16).

Please note the promise to establish a Social Responsibility Fund. Mongolia has an abundant number of funds. We do not lack in the number of Government’s special funds, which commonly have a bad record. The government funds that go through the special funds have been intergeerd with by political decisions, without monitoring and spent on purposes other than their designation, boosting corruption and inefficiencies in recent years. Although the intentions sound great nobody wants another version of SME support fund scandal. The MPP platform talks about establishing numerous new funds. Besides three above-mentioned funds they propose to establish many more with poetic names such as the Youth Development Support Fund, Export Guarantee Fund, Risk Fund and Herders’ Shared Fund where the funds are about to be pooled.

The DP also promised to pool the benefits from natural resources into the National Sovereign Fund and just like the MPP they developed the same concept to provide the citizens with apartments by establishing a sub-fund besides the National Sovereign Fund. They have the idea to transfer the privileged bonds of the Government and Mongol Bank to the sub-fund so that it actively participates in the secondary markets trading. There is a small additional detail – in so doing the fund savings shall be used to expand the availability of credits to support housing and household business and finances.

However, a drastic difference is that the DP platform directly states the source of revenues to be pooled into the Sovereign Fund, which is the royalties. They said the royalties

shall be separated from the state budget revenues and only five percent will remain in the budget whereas the rest will be pooled into the Sovereign Fund and a specialized organization shall manage the fund (Монгол Улсын Үндэсний Аудитын газрын цахим хуудас, АН мөрийн хөтөлбөр хуудас 15-16, 18).

Royalties are taxes with special significance. They constitute one third of total revenues gained from mining and almost fifty percent of the revenues that go to the state budget. If you take away royalties you would create a big vacuum in the budget that entails the question how to fill it in the state budget, Future Heritage Fund which is a sovereign fund consisting of mining revenues saved for the future generations and General Local Development Fund that is distributed to twenty one aimags and the capital city or whether some of these shall be considered as unnecessary. But the answer to this question cannot be found from the platform.

Besides this, the DP platform has another provision on revenue distribution.

Set up a system of direct distribution of up to thirty percent of revenues from natural resources collected at the state budget to local areas (Монгол Улсын Үндэсний Аудитын газрын цахим хуудас, АН мөрийн хөтөлбөр хуудас 31).

Distribution of larger mining revenues to the local areas, where mining takes place, is something desired not only by the local areas but by mining companies themselves. One of the reasons why the local communities do not like the mining sector is because they feel that they do not benefit from it. The DP calls this arrangement which would serve as the main mechanism to obtain social license from the local communities and its goal to save royalties at the Sovereign Fund as budget revenue and expenditure reform. Of course, it is important and necessary step to make budget reforms in order to reduce dependency on the mining sector and diversify the economy,but the real prospects for its realization looked dim. Anyway, both DP and MPP formula call for distributing the mining revenues not to the four, but five different sections.

The Right Person Electorate Coalition declared,

Only the right economic policy shall ensure that the natural resources benefit everyone”“stability and savings fund shall be expanded”, fair distribution of wealth with equal opportunities and conditions for each individual shall be ensured” (Монгол Улсын Үндэсний Аудитын газрын цахим хуудас, Зөв хүн электрот эвслийн мөрийн хөтөлбөр хуудас 23-27).

In general, the coalition platform has the characteristic of concepts stating general principles and approaches. This is a big and innovative difference from the long list of promises made by DP and MPP covering all social interactions.

Strategic Deposits

An important section that allows us to probe the party platforms on the sound policy to support the mining sector, is the part on their approaches to large mining deposits. The Right Person Electorate Coalition specified about developing national corporations which would compete regionally whereas MPP also prioritized similar large projects. The section named “Mega Projects to Lead to Development” has listed comprehensive utilization of Tavan Tolgoi deposit: Oyu Tolgoi underground mining, launch operations of Tsagaansuvarga, Kharmagtai, Asgat and Salkhit silver deposits. It is strange that the Gatsuurt deposit which was registered as a strategic deposit and always included in the Government Action Plans since 2008, is not mentioned at all. This eager project  for operations was left out of attention for the first time. In regard to Erdenet Mining that the Government seized with 100% ownership, out of which 49% are disputed with the private sector, it said only that a locally owned Cathode Copper Plant shall be constructed.

In contrast, the DP set out  a very important detail that it intends to sell the shares of Erdenet on the stock market so that individuals and legal entities could own them. Not only “Erdenet” but also “Erdenes Tavantolgoi” and other state owned enterprises would be privatized through stock market to make them publicly traded companies. This is the most fitting provision to the DP agenda to priorize private property and competitive markets limiting government involvement in the platform.

The Right Person Electorate Coalition offered a position similar to the DP by

removing political and party influence on large state owned mining companies and change them into publicly traded companies to ensure public monitoring to establish a balanced relationship between the citizens, government, and other shareholders of Mongolia (Монгол Улсын Үндэсний Аудитын газрын цахим хуудас, Зөв хүн электрот эвслийн мөрийн хөтөлбөр хуудас 26).

Turning the state which owned companies into publicly monitored companies will not only benefit the people through dividends, but serve as an important step forward for the future and economy of the country. It will also resolve all the problems related to unfair game, corruption and “illegal benefits” surrounding the state owned companies. The public is looking forward to such developments. So this is a position that reflects the realities.

Here we would like to point out a strange phrase in the DP platform which says Mongolian gold will stay in Mongolia. The first reaction is to recall what the current President stated in 2018, who said “Enforce the state authority in the gold sector and put a strict requirement for gold miners to sell all their gold only to Mongol Bank. I shall submit such a change in the law to the Parliament”. Did the President’s statement of two years ago find its way into the platform or did they state their goal to establish gold processing plant with twenty thousand tons capacity in this way? It’s difficult to know exactly. If they are talking about establishing a gold refinery, they could have replied it in a different way.

Conclusions

In general, when you analyze the content of the platforms you would see that the Right Person Electorate Coalition have indicated the flaws and distortions within democracy and the system that have built up for the past years and expressed their intent to correct them. The MPP relies on achievements of its previous Government promising to save the falling economy. As for DP they are focusing mostly on the mistakes and works carried out by the MPP for the last four years. The general content of the platforms on mineral sector all support responsible mining and the MPP said they would continue their policy they have pursued for the past four years, they shall keep high government involvement. The DP will focus on changing the main policies pursued by the MPP in 2016-2020. “Right Person Electorate” Coalition is to ensure stability for foreign and domestic investment and increasing it.

Mongolians have been suffering from the previous election platforms that promised money and share from the national wealth but, in fact, made us all fall into debt by the machinations taken to deliver such promises. So for this year’s elections, although we do not see promises and welfare benefits expressed in monetary terms, still the policy competition focuses not to deliver realistic planning but false ambitions and abstract promises.

About Ariuntuya and Batbold

Ariuntuya Nominkhuu is a Journalist (Mining, Business and Economic) and Executive Director of Council for Sustainable Development and Social Responsibility (CSS) Mongolia. @Ariuna_n

Batbold Otgonbayar is a Political scientist and Resource Governance Researcher PhD candidate of German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer and Chairman of the Board of CSS Mongolia. @OBatbold

The Council for Sustainable Development and Social Responsibility (CSS) is a non-profit and non-governmental organization established with the aim of introducing and advancing best international and local practices in sustainable development and corporate social responsibility into the country’s mining sector. The CSS was established in 2015 by initiatives of sustainable development experts, lawyers and journalists.

Posted in Ariuntuya Nominkhuu, Batbold Otgonbayar, Democratic Party, Erdenet, Ikh Khural 2020, Mining, Mining, Mining Governance, Mongolian People's Party, National Labor Party, Oyu Tolgoi, Party Politics, Policy, Public Policy, Sovereign Wealth Fund | Leave a comment

Election Predictions

By Julian Dierkes

No, please do not worry, I am not actually going to make any predictions. But here is why and what that means…

Election Law

The Election Law prohibits polling during the campaign. The wording has also been interpreted to forbid any kind of speculation about the outcome of the election.

I am not sure whether that has ever been tested by an academic in court (or whether an academic has been tested by this in court), but there seems to be general agreement that this paragraph prevents speculation about outcomes.

I have been at events in past elections where hosts have told me explicitly to stay away from speculation about results, as they were concerned that this would make them liable as hosts. Obviously, this prohibition should and would apply to foreigners in Mongolia. Again, my legal expertise does not stretch far enough (actually, it barely exists at all), to know whether speculation on this blog or on Twitter, i.e. media hosted abroad, would be subject to this prohibition and how I might be prosecuted, but I do not have any interest in antagonizing anyone just for the purpose of sharing my guesses.

The reason for this prohibition on polls is generally that such polls would influence voters. This is not uncommon elsewhere, especially in a place like Canada with multiple time zones and concerns that if a party is showing especially well in the Maritimes (Atlantic provinces of Canada, ahead of the West Coast by up to 4.5h), voters in the Prairies or in British Columbia might choose not to vote, thinking that the election has already been decided. Or, if a poll says, politician A is winning a seat, their supporters might not bother to vote or supporters of an opposing candidate might show up in greater numbers.

I am not sure that there is evidence for such effects and the opposite effect is imaginable, i.e. if the election appears to be trending against my own views, would that not be all the more reason to go vote?

Polling

There are polls in Mongolia, of course. Methodologies continue to develop (see for example the fascinating Worldbank pilot project to survey rural population through random geographic cluster sampling). However, these polls are still hampered by the lack of a general social survey that would allow comparison of a sampled population to the broader population on representativeness and there are some very real practical hurdles to sampling, especially in urban ger districts, and in rural areas generally.

I have always taken Sant Maral Foundation‘s Politbarometer, for example, to be a useful indicator of longterm trends, especially on questions that are asked repeatedly to generate longitudinal trends, but have put little stake in these poll results when it comes to party or candidate vote shares, in part because there appears to be such a strong regional bias in these.

There is always much chatter about the polling conducted by the political parties, but I cannot see how they would overcome some of the practical and methodological hurdles to produce much more reliable results.

Exit Polling

One of the real challenges in understanding Mongolian elections is the absence of exit polling on polling day. I see this as a challenge that breeds mistrust in that there are no expectations of results that have any factual basis before the actual results come out. My conclusion from this post further down will be that I certainly do not feel like I can predict much about the outcome, it is a surprise every time. That makes it very easy for many voices, including loosing candidates who cry foul and allege voter fraud to assert their claims. Other than the absence of evidence for fraud, there is no counter-evidence. Exit polls (done well) are not infallible (as we know from many elections around the world), but they lay the basis for understanding voter decisions and thus enable more expectations in subsequent elections that enable explanations of why a result might have swung in a certain direction.

The Electoral System

I have discussed the unusual features of the multi-member majoritarian system with UBC Political Science colleague, Max Cameron, elsewhere. Since it is not used very much in national-level elections elsewhere, we do not really have firm expectations about its impact.

The two biggest perspectives are that a) MMM reinforces the advantage that incumbents have by privileging prominence, and perception of personality and qualifications, or b) that MMM will lead to many voters making surprising choices with their 2nd and/or 3rd votes. Even if we assume that staunch party supporters (assume that there are more of them among older and more rural voters, mostly but not entirely skewing toward the MPP) will vote party slates in their electoral district, that still leaves a potentially large number of voters who might vote for one or two choices nominated by their preferred party, but will give a second or third voice to an entirely different alternative. It is the latter calculation that must have spurred some of the many independents and small-party candidates to run in this election.

What this suggests is that some of the electorate will vote by party preference, while some voters will based their vote entirely on the candidate not his/her party allegiance.

To the extent that polling or previous history (voters seemingly preferring a back-and-forth between the two dominant parties) suggests anything, these suggestions are thus hampered by the unknown impact of voting in multi-member districts, especially in some of the Ulaanbaatar election districts where so many candidates are competing for seats and thus absolutely small numbers of votes might win a plurality.

My Myopic View of Mongolian Politics

The final element that keeps me from making predictions is my ignorance when it comes to many candidates which is exacerbating the many uncertainties associated with the electoral system even further.

Just for an exercise (and maybe to substantiate any small private bets I might make), I tried to go through the electoral districts and pick certain, likely and possible winners. I could have even gone further and associated probabilities with these gradations and thus come up with an estimate of likely seats. But it soon became clear to me that I really only know a small subgroup of national politicians well enough to have even a faint sense of their electoral chances, and almost no regional/local politicians. Some nationally prominent candidate might thus easily be trumped by a local hero and I would know anything about that as that local hero will have never showed up on my radar.

So, I quickly gave up on this exercise. While I (think I) understand a lot of the dynamics of national politics and while I do know a lot of the politicians active on the national stage (though primarily cabinet members and most visible politicians otherwise, there are some members of parliament that I would neither recognize nor associate any kind of legislative activity with), none of that adds up to enough information to base any predictions on.

Of course, I do have a gut feeling…

Posted in Elections, Ikh Khural 2020, Party Politics, Politics, Public Opinion | Tagged | Leave a comment

Parties and Candidate Demography Update

By Julian Dierkes

The final list of 606 approved candidates was released at the beginning of the week and we, here at Mongolia Focus, are still processing the approval or lack thereof of certain candidates. The picture has changed a little from what we had written about previously, though more among the smaller parties and independents than any big changes for the main contenders, so here’s an update and some additional observations.

Parties, Coalitions and Districts

In the end, there are 13 parties and 4 coalitions with a total of 485 candidates.

Parties

Coalitions

In addition, 121 independents have been approved as candidates across 26 districts (no independent candidates in Govi-Altai, Sukhbaatar and Khentii.

Districts

Districts 1-18 are rural aimags across the country. District 19 and 20 include the urban areas of Darkhan and Erdenet, respectively, and districts 21-29 are Ulaanbaatar districts.

There are generally more candidates in the urban districts, ranging from district 21 (Ulaanbaatar’s outlying districts) with 14 candidates competing for 2 seats, to the downtown Ulaanbaatar district of Sukhbaatar where 38 candidates are vying for 3 seats.

For the aimag districts, the lowest number of candidates is competing in Govi-Altai (10 candidates for 2 seats), the highest in Selenge and Uvs where 23 candidates are competing for 3 seats each.

Districts thus range from 1 seat per 5 candidates to almost 1 seat per 13 candidates.

Candidate Demographics

The demographic factor that is most easily gleaned from various lists and announcements is gender. We are continuing to collect information on individual candidates and gender will certainly be part of that, but we don’t have enough information quite yet for more fine-grained analysis, so just some summary observations.

Keep in mind that for parties 20% of their candidates have to be women.

Here are the percentages female candidates for the 10 parties and coalitions that have more than 10 candidates:

Party Total Candidates Women Percentage
MPP 76 16 21%
DP 76 17 22%
Mongolian Green Party 15 5 33%
Freedom for People Party 13 3 23%
Demos Party 30 23 77%
People’s Majority Governance Party 24 7 29%
Our Coalition 74 17 23%
New Coalition 72 15 21%
Right Person Electorate 53 13 25%
Sahigtun! Coalition 34 10 29%

Clearly, the Demos Party is the outlier here. Marissa has already taken a closer look at this party.

Among the 121 independents there are 17 female candidates, just 14%. This low percentage among independent candidates could be interpreted to show how important the candidates’ quota for parties is in that their percentages of female candidates might as low as that for the independents in the absence of a quota.

Generations

Information on candidates’ ages will be even more laborious to collect and we are not entirely sure that we will be able to for all the 606 candidates. However, we have collected the year of birth for all of the MPP candidates, in part because they dominated the previous parliament and because the internecine struggle within the party between PM U Khurelsukh and former Speaker M Enkhbold has been framed in part at least around generational succession.

Given that the MPP candidates’ list is perceived to be a list of Khurelsukh’s candidates, the question arises, do the 76 candidates nominated by the MPP for the 2020 parliamentary election represent a generational change?

We have not “backfilled” data for the 76 MPP candidates in 2016 or the 22 MPP members who had originally been elected in 2016 but have not been nominated for the current election to compare the overall demographics between these groups.

However, the current group of 76 candidates are on average 48.75 years old (note that we have collected the year of birth for candidates, not their birthday and subtract this from 2020, so that this average figure overestimates the average age as some number around half of the MPs (assuming normal distribution across months of the year) will not have turned a new age this year yet). They breakdown across decade generations as follows: 1950s: 5, 60s: 20, 70s: 45, 80s: 6.

The 33 candidates who were not previously MPs are a bit younger than the overall group at 46.5 years and 27 of them were born after 1970.

While the number of younger candidates is bigger among the new candidates, these numbers do not immediately seem to signal a real generational shift as new candidates probably are typically younger than incumbents.

Posted in Ikh Khural 2020 | Tagged | Leave a comment

More on Third Parties: ATOZN

By Marissa J. Smith

With the official start of campaigning season this week, and more information about the candidates approved by the GEC now available, the picture on third parties is clearer.

In addition to Demos, which I discussed last week, the main third party standing is ATOZN, Ард түмний олонхийн засаглал нам, or “People’s Majority Governance Party.” Like Demos, this party is relatively new, registered in January 2019, does not have clear links to other parties (though it has some connection at least with the ATOZ — a “зөвлөл” and not a party — which participated in the winter 2019 demonstrations). Unlike Demos, the party does not have a highly coordinated and centralized online presence, though there has been enough action online in the past few days to make a few observations.

In short: with the combination of the use of nationalist symbols and language, and generalized criticisms of wealth in politics, ATOZN fits the mold of “populist” party (circa 2016-2017?) better than any of the others currently making a mark online. At the time of writing, i.e. after candidacy has been approved by the GEC, at least one party candidate is naming the Mongolian National United Front, an organization that unlawfully demonstrated and called for the dissolution of Parliament this past fall, and was warned by the General Intelligence Agency against calling for violence. In addition to this, police officers and at least one state prosecutor are running for office.

“Lawkeepers”

On individual Facebook accounts, ATOZN candidates have shared a post with police officers and a state prosecutor, with the description of their party being or including a “Хуульчдын баг.” A party candidate also posted pictures of a rally on Sukhbaatar Square. The message seems to be that the party is composed of individuals already holding state power. For police or prosecutors to run for political office representing themselves as such however has been unusual in Mongolian electoral politics.

ATOЗНамын Хуульчдын баг.

Posted by Agwaanpvrew Dungarmaa on Thursday, May 28, 2020

Criticism of Wealth in Politics

There is now also a fairly active Facebook group for the party. Also of note is the prominence of posts by and about Shagdarsurengiin Gantulga,  candidate in Songinokhairkhan district. He is pictured below, an “international journalist,” between fellow Songinokhiarkhan candidates. Gantulga’s posts, which are shared by other ATOZN candidates, concentrate on criticism of wealth in politics (speaking of “олигарх баягчид”) in a general sense, with some emphasis on offshore accounts (an issue which has mostly been eclipsed now by the SME and later scandals). He was also interviewed by Sonin.mn (and here is a lengthy interview with Sh. Gantulga from 2018.)

Posted by Дэ. Наагий on Thursday, June 4, 2020

Nationalist Symbolism and Language

Readers may note that though the хас is not a pronounced symbol in the party’s logo, it does appear added to one of the party’s official caps. I should also say that the official party platform (мөрийн хөтөлбөр)  submitted to the National Audit Office, “revolutionizing national consciousness” appears as the first of three goals. One of Sh. Gantulga’s facebook “broadcasts” also includes a banner with a black туг/хар сүлд (war banner) bound with a хас.

Posted by Гомбожавын Энхжаргал on Sunday, May 31, 2020

 

Other Third Parties

The Mongolian Green Party has had a small number of candidates cleared to participate in the election, notably in the three mining-heavy Gobi aimags, and three candidates in Bayangol. O. Bum-Yalagch, who has lead the party since it broke away from the Civil Will-Green Party unification and was a prominent actor in post-2008 movements (see Alan Sanders’ Historical Dictionary of Mongolia), is heading the party and running in Sukhbaatar District.

The Sahigtun! coalition’s numbers steeply decreased on Ikon’s dashboard after the GEC’s certifications were released, and now has 34 candidates, in comparison to Demos’ 30 and ATOZN’s 24. The coalition also has been active online, with the trend so far being for individual candidates to maintain their own Facebook profiles, with many adding logo frames to their profile pictures.

Posted in Civil Society, Corruption, Elections, Ikh Khural 2020, Marissa Smith, Nationalism, Protest, Security Apparatus | Tagged | Leave a comment

Non-Partisan Public Endorsement of Candidates

By Julian Dierkes

Two new actors announced themselves on the political scene last year, both non-partisan groupings seeking to support qualified candidates for public office: ЭЛЕКТОРАТ & Уухай.

Elder Statesmen

Elektorat (I somehow prefer the German-looking “k” ending over electorate) is a grouping of elder statesmen (and a few stateswomen, though only 6 out of 60) led by historian and commentator N Baabar. Members (for a listing see https://ikon.mn/n/1wfb where the announcement of its endorsement is also reproduced) explicitly disavow ambitions for public office themselves and are hoping to promote the “right” people to serve in parliament. The group emerged in part in reaction the SME Fund scandal and the sense that Mongolians were not well-governed by current MPs. The group did not target MPs of one particular party, but instead described itself as a non-partisan coalition of disinterested, public-visible personalities.

The 76 endorsements include candidates from the MPP, the DP, the National Labour Party, the Social Democratic Party, the New Party, the Ger Development Party, and independents. There are some members of this list who have been MPs in the past (Kh Temuujin), are current MPs (11) or are very prominent (PM Khurelsukh). To me there were certainly some surprises on this list, including MP Nomtoibayar who is fighting charges in court and has been primarily known (to me) for driving a three-axis G-Wagen around town, not something that I see as a strong qualification for political leadership. Some of the other current MPs on the list have also had their share of controversy in the past, so some of these selections were surprising, given the lofty claims that Elektorat makes in portraying itself as independent and substance-focused.

What remains very confusing to me is that the National Labour Party is competing jointly with the Social Democratic Party in a coalition called ЗӨВ ХҮН ЭЛЕКТОРАТ ЭВСЭЛ which suggests an endorsement by Elektorat, but the listing of 76 endorsed candidates is not limited to candidates nominated by this coalition.

Younger Foreign-Educated Professionals

An apparent generational rival to Elektorat emerged at a similar time, Уухай. It also aims to promote good people in their quest for public office in order to bring expertise and competence into parliament. This movement did not endorse 76 candidates.

These candidates are drawn only from the MPP and the ЗӨВ coalition plus one independent candidate. All of the Уухай-endorsed candidates for whom I could ascertain an age are under 50.

Overlap

There are 12 candidates whom both, Elektorat and Уухай endorsed (electoral district and party):

  • R Jargalmaa (1, ЗӨВ ХҮН ЭЛЕКТОРАТ)
  • B Gunbileg (4, ЗХЭ)
  • B Sodbold (19, ЗХЭЭ)
  • B Munkhdul (21, ЗХЭЭ)
  • P Naranbayar (22, ЗХЭЭ)
  • B Enkhbayar (22m MAH)
  • D Gantulga (23, ЗХЭЭ)
  • Kh Bulgantuya (23, MAH)
  • G Gankhuu (24, ЗХЭЭ)
  • B Munkhsoyol (24, ЗХЭЭ)
  • B Naidalaa (25, ЗХЭЭ)
  • Sh Enkhtuul (25, ЗХЭЭ)

This overlap includes four women (Jargalmaa, Bulgantuya, Munkhsoyol, and Enkhtuul). The overlap is heavily focused on Ulaanbaatar electoral districts, with only three candidates from the aimags (Arkhangai, Bulgan, Darkhan). None of these candidates have been members of parliament before and only the two MPP candidates would represent a party that is currently represented in parliament.

Implications

The notion of non-partisan endorsements of individual candidates is somewhat anathema to a party-driven democracy, of course. In a democratic contest between alternative policies to reach future development ambitions and goals, such individual endorsements do not seem to promote ideological contestation. At the same time, it is hard to argue against the point that a country needs competent representatives in parliament.

Whether or not groupings like this or these groupings in particular will have a future role in politics will depend to some extent on the success of the candidates they have endorsed. Since incumbents do well in many electoral contests, chances are that some of the Elektorat-endorsed candidates will be elected, but the small number of Уухай-endorsements and their focus on candidates not running for the established parties makes it somewhat unlikely that many of these candidates will be elected. If more than a handful of the Уухай-candidates are elected, however, this would represent a real sea-change in Mongolian politics.

Posted in Ikh Khural 2020, Politics | Leave a comment

Zoom: Mongolia Election Preview, June 1

On June 1, just before the official start of the election campaign in Mongolia, I presented a preview of the election in a Zoom session.

Watch the recording of my presentation here:

Errata

Somehow, I skipped over my introduction slide. In it I acknowledged that I am not on my own in covering the election, but that I very much benefit from, nay rely on conversations with my fellow bloggers: Dr. J Mendee, Dr. D Byambajav, Dr. Marissa Smith and B Bulgan.

Slide 8 discussed the age breakdown of candidates in the MPP to examine the extent to which PM U Khurelsukh’s control of nominations has brought about generational change. As I discovered after the presentation, some of these numbers were wrong since there was a mistake in a spreadsheet that I was working off.

Correct numbers are:
Average age (2200-year of birth, not precise to actual birthday) of 76 MPP candidates: 48.75
Distribution across generations (decades): 1950s 5 | 1960s 20 | 1970s 45 | 1980s 6

Learning about recordings of Zoom sessions, next time I might close my view of participants so that this is not recorded along with me, if I can figure out how to do that. In this version I have placed a black block over participants’ images.

Follow-Up

Participants in the Zoom session seemed keen on further sessions during/after the election, we have scheduled an update for June 12.

Posted in Democracy, Democratic Party, Elections, Ikh Khural 2020, Mongolian People's Party, National Labor Party, Party Politics, Public Opinion, Video | Tagged | Leave a comment

Guest Post: Four Things We Learned from Young Voters’ Survey

By BOLDSAIKHAN Sambuu

Youth abstention is fast becoming a hot topic in Mongolia as the parliamentary elections come right around the corner. This is partly because, in this year’s elections, both major and new parties, such as the National Labor Party, have nominated an unprecedented number of “younger” and “fresher” candidates, all banking on the youth vote. Moreover, various non-partisan NGOs, local and international, are in a buzz of activity, all undertaking projects aimed at raising the youth turnout in June.

As part of such initiatives, with the help of the Zorig Foundation, I have had the opportunity to conduct a modest online survey of 680 respondents between 18 and 25 years old. With this survey, we attempted to gain insights into the most prevalent individual reasons for why some young people decide to vote whereas others do not. The survey was supported by the campaign, “Strengthening Women and Youth Engagement in the Electoral and Political Processes in Mongolia,” which is being funded by the USAID and implemented by the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the Asia Foundation (TAF).

A variety of complex causes influence the electoral turnout of young voters. Factors such as the nature of Mongolia’s current two-party system, the majoritarian bias in the electoral rules, the quality of the election campaigns, and the list of candidates are all arguably important factors that influence the turnout. However, these “systemic” or “macro” factors were beyond the scope of this survey.

Due to the constraints imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, we were not able to draw a random sample that is representative of all eligible voters under 25 in the capital city Ulaanbaatar. Nor can we conduct face to face interviews with a large number of people. Instead, we used an online survey method with a self-selected sample. Hence, because of the non-random sampling technique we used, I urge caution when making inferences about the population parameters based on the results of this survey. With these caveats out of the way, here are four important takeaways from what we’ve learned about young voters.

One: Among those who voted in 2016 elections, most believe voting is their civic duty

To gain an understanding of the factors that influence young voters to go to the polls, the survey asked the following question from the respondents who voted in 2016 elections: “People participate in elections and cast their vote for a variety of reasons. As for you, what were the most important reasons that motivated you to participate in the 2016 parliamentary elections?” The participants were allowed to provide as many as four answers and to fill in their answers if they so desired.

As Figure 1 shows, an overwhelming majority (82 percent) said they voted because voting is a civic duty. Fifty seven percent believe that their vote matters and that they thought they could influence its outcome by participating in the election. Also, 28 percent turned out to vote because their family or friends urged them to do so. Surprisingly, a much lower percentage of young voters, 21 percent, in our survey were retrospective voters, i.e., voters who evaluate the incumbent government’s performance in the past four years to decide how to vote. Likewise, those who turned out to vote because they liked/disliked a candidate/party were only 14 percent each. One could interpret these results to mean that partisan politics and ideological or policy debates do not strongly influence young voters’ decision to vote. Instead, most young voters vote in order to affirm societal norms or due to family pressures.

Finally, contrary to the widespread allegations of vote-buying during the 2016 elections, only three individuals said they voted for a candidate/party because they received gifts and money from a politician. Although this result might have underestimated the true extent of vote-buying due to a social desirability bias among the respondents, it is unlikely to have been a significant influence since the survey was anonymous.

Two: Young voters prioritize candidate-specific factors, especially level of education and career history

The survey asked: “what influenced you the most when it comes to your decision to cast your vote for a specific candidate in 2016 parliamentary elections?” Figure 2 suggests that the most crucial factor influencing the youth vote in 2016 was the candidates’ level of education and career history. One-third of the respondents who turned out in 2016 supported a candidate who was the most educated and had a distinguished career history in their mind. Three focus group interviews we conducted following this survey reinforced this result. On numerous occasions, focus group participants communicated their displeasure with some of the current MPs they described as “uneducated” and talking “nonsense.” When we asked why young voters should come out and vote in elections, they replied that because of their lackluster political participation, the older folks are electing “unqualified” and “uneducated” people who are running this country. They further asserted that if more young voters came out to vote, the government would be more competent and capable.

The survey reveals that family pressure was the second most crucial factor influencing how the youth voted in 2016. Twenty nine percent of those who participated in the elections voted for a candidate because their parents or other family members told them to do so. Given that young voters may lack experience with politics, it makes sense that their family members’ preferences may influence them.

The third most important factor was the parties’ electoral campaign platforms/promises. Specifically, parties’ campaign platforms/promises influenced about 21 percent of the young voters in our sample that participated in the 2016 elections. Next, 20 percent said they voted for a candidate they thought were most trustworthy, 17 percent said they voted for a random candidate because they were not sufficiently informed to make a substantive decision. About 13 percent voted for a politician because he/she looked more familiar. These findings are consistent with what we learned from our focus group interviews. Some participants expressed frustration with the lack of useful and objective information that could help them differentiate the candidates. Young voters said that information on the candidates’ level of education, age, career history, as well as short summaries of the most critical election platform/promises would help them make an informed decision on how and whom to vote for in the upcoming elections.

These results suggest that young voters are overwhelmingly non-partisan (only 14 percent have a favourite party) and hence were less inclined to prioritize the candidates’ partisan labels in the 2016 elections. Instead, young voters tended to examine the candidates directly without paying much attention to which party or coalition the candidates represented. Among the candidate-specific attributes, they cared most about the level of education, career history, and trustworthiness. The survey also asked about what the respondents will prioritize in the 2020 elections, and the results remain largely the same. Specifically, 56 percent of the respondents who are planning to vote in 2020 said they would look closely at the candidates’ career history, 52 percent said they would prioritize the candidate’s education, 39 percent the parties’ platforms/promises, and 37 percent candidates with a clean reputation. In contrast, only 7 percent said they would consider which party or coalition the candidates represent. These results suggest that in the context of this year’s multi-member majoritarian voting, a (young) voter might potentially vote for candidates from multiple different parties.

Three: Young voters care most about education reform

We asked young voters to rate the most pressing socio-political issues they want the next parliament to prioritize. Figure 3 shows that the number one issue they care about is education reform. In our focus group interviews, many participants reiterated this point as well. The participants were highly critical of the lack of a civic education curriculum that teaches about the core principles of democracy in Mongolia’s secondary schools. Others expressed their uneasiness about the growing inequality of access to higher education. These issues identified as most pressing by young voters are different from what the general population sees as the most important socio-political issues. According to the Sant Maral Foundation’s latest political barometer, education was ranked seventh pressing issue, with only 6.3 percent of the sample identifying it as an important concern. Thus, young voters have interests that are distinct from the general population.

Four: To have their unique interests reflected in public policy, they must vote

The principle of “one person, one vote” that underlies democratic elections entails that citizens, regardless of wealth, gender, and other factors, have an equal say in public policy. So, the equality of the franchise equalizes all citizens’ political influence. Nevertheless, this applies only to those who turn out to vote. If a significant segment of the public, such as youth, abstains from voting, then a distortion in democratic representation and accountability mechanisms occurs. According to the National Statistics Office of Mongolia, the turnout among voters under 25 in the last parliamentary elections was 51 percent, the lowest rate among all other age groups. Given that nearly half of young voters did not participate in the electoral process, it is safe to assume that policy-makers are neglecting the distinct interests of the youth and the issues they face.

When we asked from the respondents who abstained in 2016 why they did not vote, 36 percent said they were too busy to vote, 31 percent thought the candidates were not trustworthy, and 28 percent believed that it did not matter who was elected. Despite these reasons, to have their interests and concerns be reflected in public policy, Mongolia’s youth must vote in June. Part of the problem of youth abstention indeed lies with the political parties that refuse to compete based on programs and ideas. The electoral system is indeed inimical towards non-establishment candidates, thus discouraging young voters to participate. Furthermore, I share the sentiment that the candidates seldom are distinguishable from each other. Nor are they ever trustworthy.

Nevertheless, if young voters sit and wait for perfect candidates, they will wait for a long time. Even if it seems that candidates are all falling short of our expectations, is it not prudent to choose the ones who are less worse than the others? With the Covid-19 lockdown, universities, bars, clubs, and other establishments will remain closed. Hence, I expect that a much smaller number of young voters will say that they were too busy to vote after this year’s elections. And given the record number of younger and fresh candidates, I hope that young voters not make the same complaint that the candidates were indistinguishable.

About Boldsaikhan

Boldsaikhan Sambuu is a PhD candidate of political science at Waseda University in Tokyo Japan. He is an advisor to the Zorig Foundation as well as a host of the “54 Cups of Coffee” Podcast and “Bodcast” Podcast. Twitter: @BoldSambuu

Posted in Boldsaikhan Sambuu, Elections, Ikh Khural 2016, Ikh Khural 2020, Party Politics, Younger Mongolians, Youth | Leave a comment

Imagining A Perfect Election Day and Joint Observation Mission in Mongolia

By Mendee Jargalsaikhan

Mongolia will be the second northeast Asian country to conduct a parliamentary election amidst the current pandemic following South Korea. Learning from my Korean colleagues, the South Korean parliamentary election was successful with the highest voter turnout for a parliamentary election since 1996. But, we can easily imagine how hard it was for organizers who were thinking of all worst-case scenarios and preparing for each. Here is an excellent article, written by my colleague Dongwoo Kim.

Elections in South Korea

Since South Korea has been dealing with the community spread of the virus, voters were divided into three categories and voted separately. The first category includes those with confirmed and suspected patients with COVID-19. 13,642 out of 59, 918 voters in this category casted their vote in advance between March 24 and 28. The second category voters are those in self-quarantine: recent travellers and those recovered from the virus. They voted within a specific timeframe at the designated polling stations. The third category refers to all other voters. All voters are required to keep one-meter distance, wear masks, have the temperature checked, and wear gloves. If one shows fever, he/she would be escorted by people with space suites (PPEs) to a secluded, covered booth. Because of the pandemic, South Korea suspended overseas voting, which is relevant to over 86,000 voters living abroad. Although it is hard to compare South Korea and Mongolia, there are some valuable lessons. One is the clear designation, empowerment of the lead agency – which needs to be under the control of politically-neutral, professionals. In South Korean case, the National Elections Commission (NEC) was in control. The second is clear, immediate communication with voters. This certainly increases the trust and participation of voters. The third is the respect and obey the law, especially political leaders, parties, and all candidates; otherwise, there are always possibility to politicize anything. In South Korea, all obeyed the country’s Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act as well as safety rules and regulations set and updated by the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Korean Centres of Disease Control.

A Perfect Election Day on June 24 in Mongolia 

Let’s imagine a perfect election day. On sunny morning, quarter to 7 am, elders dressed up as usual lining up near the polling stations while waiting for election officials make the final check. A young election worker is kindly reminding them keeping 1.5 metre distance and wearing masks. Some nod, while all want to chat. As day reaches the typical June average temperature (22-25°), refreshing breeze travels around and light intermittent drizzles cool down a bit frustrated voters from standing on long, slow-advancing queues  outside the polling stations. Kids are playing around joyfully and enjoying their treats (esp., ice cream cones). But, elders are still rumouring in the shadows and never stopping to ask if voted, to whom voted for, and whom should vote for.

As election workers start feeling their tiredness by the evening, young voters are crowding the polling stations. Many don’t even listen to election workers’ reminder of safe distancing, wearing masks, and hand sanitizing, but a few youth easily get lost inside and start asking how to vote. By late evening, around 9-ish, a live counting from the General Election Commission becomes the most favourite show for all adults. That annoys toddlers and kids  – who used to control the TVs. News channels report about some trouble-makers especially around these hours as many showed up just before the closing of the stations at 10 pm. By midnight, people were still staring the live broadcast, however, some decided to hear the final results – of very remote soums of Bayan Ulgii province in the morning. But, for parties, candidates, and close supporters, a day is just starting. Winners begin their victory parties, losers drink and strategize how to reject the results. In contrast, poorly paid election workers, over 9,000 public servants, plus those assigned (IT folks, police, now doctors and emergency crews) are still wondering if their stations are included in the manual counting (50 percent). If it is included, they need to spend extra hours to recount.

To make this perfect day, three things must happen: (1) party leaders refrain making any victory statements until the GEC reports the final results, (2) candidates hold their temptations of cheating or causing chaos, and, (3) the emergency responders of the National Centre of Communicable Diseases receive a few manageable calls.

For sure, the General Election Commission and all public servants assigned for the election will make their best to conduct a successful election amidst of the pandemic outbreak. But, they face two major challenges to maintain the public trust.

First, the coronavirus is beyond their control; therefore, the situation can change immediately and only medical and emergency professionals know how to respond. Unlike South Korea, key decision-making powers of the State Emergency Commission and lead agency will remain under the ruling party officials. Even the ruling party puts true professionals in charge, many could easily suspect of politicization of the pandemic. Second, the rule of law is not truly independent at the moment. The practice of arresting and giving court dates prior to elections become normal process for a long time and becomes very complicated for ordinary people to comprehend. Given these circumstances of low trust, the only way for the GEC to defend their hard work is to have a joint team of Mongolian and international observers.

The Golden Opportunity for the Joint Observation Mission

Since 2013, Mongolia, as a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), invited international observers. The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), a specialized election monitoring body of the OSCE, deployed long and short-term observers along with Mongolian local staffs for all elections. This year, the ODIHR, couldn’t send their Election Observation Mission. 

This prompts leaders of the General Election Commission (GEC) to ask around foreign embassies in Ulaanbaatar to observe the elections. For example, requests have made to the US Ambassador and UK Deputy Chief of Mission. Not surprisingly, GEC leaders are not so eager to permit Mongolian observers (e.g., Шударга сонгуулийн төлөө иргэний нийгмийн хяналт сүлжээ). This creates a golden opportunity for foreign embassies, international organizations, and Mongolian observers to work together to fill the gap of the OSCE to be neutral, fair observers for the work of the GEC amidst of pandemic fear and low trust in judiciary and law enforcement organizations. This is mutually beneficial for all parties. 

For foreign diplomats, especially those from the OCED, EU, and OSCE member countries, they are “stuck” in Mongolia until June 30. All have tasks of observing the political, social, and economic developments in Mongolia, keen interests of learning more about people, and have invaluable international experience to compare. It is quite easy to get organized in a short period of time since all embassies are well-settled and have logistics to support in-country travel. Moreover, June is the perfect timing for touring around the country. However, most diplomats lack the technical expertise and somewhat background knowledge of Mongolian elections and the dynamics. 

Here is the Network of Civil Society Organizations for Just Election (Шударга сонгуулийн төлөө иргэний нийгмийн хяналт сүлжээ) is a reliable local partner. It is evolved as a primary platform for encouraging youth to observe the electoral process (from law-making, to running, and to counting the results) and become critical voters. Starting from 2008 elections, the network has made contributions to improve the electoral process by pointing out deficiencies with facts and evidence. Instead of criticizing the lack of youth participation in the elections, the network dedicated time and resources for young observers (over 100 per election) to make contributions by understanding the importance of elections and participating in the implementation process.  Therefore, the network would complement the missing part of electoral technicality and share their long-accumulated expertise with foreign diplomats. 

This type of joint observation mission would make the GEC’s job easier. In addition to their enormous tasks of running the elections amidst of pandemic, they also need to accommodate requests of multiple international and local observers. If embassies and local civil society observers are get organized, this would make communications with the GEC less complicated and avoid from all potential complaints and mis-understanding involving foreign diplomats and observers. In fact, a joint statement of local and international observers would sound stronger and trust-worthier than random statements or tweets by diplomats. At the end, the joint observation mission would empower the civil society – esp., young observers and could make a fair defence for the GEC. 

Posted in Democracy, Elections, Ikh Khural 2020 | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Demos Party: Women Candidates, Multi-Ethnic Mongolia, and Third Party Rural Strategy

By Marissa J. Smith

Among the four independent parties we are following, the Demos (ЗОН) Party has an interesting mix of most sophisticated web presence (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, website, and even Wikipedia page!) and its fielding of candidates in every electoral district. At the same time, however, little information about individual candidates, and on the party website the head of the party, E. Odbayar (not running for Ikh Khural) states that more information about candidates will be available after the General Election Committee issues certifications. For now, the party website is announcing that 80% of its candidates are women (though the individual voices of the party online are all male). The posts about women candidates also mention an “EEJ” (“Mother”) movement, suggesting that the party recently unified with this non-party organization.

The party Instagram account also links to  the website http://www.tuurgatan.mn/, but it appears to not have been updated for some months, so it is an open question as to how much can be discerned about the current party “platform” from content there. More forcefully even than the party’s name “zon olon,” “tuurgatan” indicates a “Greater Mongolia” rather than “Khalkh-centric” (the political norm) orientation, the website has sections specific to Buryats, Tuvans, Kalmuks, Southern Mongolians, etc. (And nothing obvious about the high proportion of women candidates, at least.) The multi-ethnic orientation may be associated with the decision to field candidates in every electoral district, as populations in many outlying aimags and border areas strongly identify with non-Khalkh Mongol groups.

Govi-Altai?

In addition to Demos, which is fielding candidates in every electoral district, two of the other independent parties are also fielding candidates in Govi-Altai (and only two other aimags each!). In addition to Govi-Altai’s being perhaps Mongolia’s most remote aimag, this also seems at first a curious choice since there are two MPP incumbents running there, enough to fill the district’s allocated seats in the Ikh Khural. Does the fact that the secretary of the Civil Will-Green Party (with the Ta Bidnii Esvel coalition) is also running there indicate that this is seen as a strategic district?

jeep with party flag on dirt road

Jeep campaigning for the Mongolian People’s Party in Bulgan aimag, parliamentary elections campaign, 2012. (photo by author)

Ease of campaigning and the ability to collect a high proportion by small number of votes appears to be a key logic here. I note that, among the aimags, Govi-Altai has the third lowest population of any of the districts, and this population is more concentrated in one soum (about 18,000 people) as compared to the populations of Dundgovi, Bulgan, and Sukhbaatar. Bulgan and Sukhbaatar in particular have been neglected by the third parties and coalitions in terms of distribution of candidates, even though no incumbents are running in Sukhbaatar (though two former aimag governors/zasag darga are). the other constituencies with lower total populations and only two seats allotted, Dundgovi and Umnugovi, both have more dispersed populations and are the major mining centers, home to Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi (Tsogtsetsii and Khanbogd soums each have over 8000 people).

Posted in Countryside, Democracy, Elections, Ethnic Groups, Gender, Geography, Ikh Khural 2020, Marissa Smith, Party Politics, Politics | Tagged | Leave a comment