10-Year Anniversary

By Julian Dierkes

WOW!!!

We’ve been blogging for 10 years!

We had hoped to hold a public event in Ulaanbaatar for this anniversary, invite some past authors, perhaps give some readers a chance to say a few things about the blog… but alas, COVID will not allow for that this summer.

Origins, Coverage and Authors

Byambajav, Julian and Mendee (from left) in 2017

It all started with conversations between Byambajav Dalaibuyan, Mendee Jargalsaikhan and myself in the office. Those led to the very first blog post on July 29 2011 where Mendee summarized his MA thesis on anti-Chinese attitudes.

From then on, we have written over 700 posts on many different topics and many different authors have joined us. I’ve never calculated the average length of posts, but 700 words would be a conservative estimate.  That suggests at total of over 500,000 words.

For the variety of topics, just see the category cloud in the right margin. These are mostly clustered around economic, political and social developments, though we sprinkled in sports, updates on visible change in Ulaanbaatar and the countryside, the arts, etc. We have always seen spikes of readership around national elections in part because we also posted a lot of analyses around these elections, but perhaps also because international interest in Mongolia is relatively selected and elections are an occasion to write even for international media.

Our initial crew of three was joined for a time by Brandon Miliate, and later by Bulgan Batdorj and Marissa J Smith.

Adding guest authors to our core crew, 70 authors have written for the blog. 9 of those authors have been or are affiliated with UBC.

Audience

As it turns out, when you keep writing, they will come to read!

Our posts have been read over 440,000 times by 160,000 readers. These readers are based in some of the world’s population giants (China, India, the U.S.), but also in Mongolia (just under a quarter of readers) which we’re especially happy about.

If you imagine the 500,000 words we’ve written to be an edited volume, that sure would be an academic bestseller, though, of course, few – if any, other than myself – of those readers have read all posts.

And yes, 440,000 pageviews!

Outlook

No concrete plans for changes. Some of us have other demands placed on our time, pandemics interfere with country visits, but our interest remains strong and our readership seems pretty steady. We’ve toyed with donation systems like “Buy me a Coffee”, but in the end, it seems too much trouble and we’re writing for a greater understanding of contemporary Mongolia, not for pay. We’ve also thought about other formats, perhaps most likely a podcast, but the blog format still serves our needs well, so perhaps we’re just sticking to what has worked in the past.

But, you should definitely feel free to buy any of us a coffee or perhaps even a beer when you see us. Please also let us know how useful the blog is to you, it’s always nice to have testimonials like that, not least to insert into annual reports, etc. And, we’re also happy to be invited to podcast conversations.

If you have more serious challenges, you can always hire us for consulting via the Mongolian Institute for Innovative Policies.

And yes, we are hoping to have a public event in summer 2022 for our 11-year anniversary, pandemic times permitting.

Posted in Reflection | Tagged | Leave a comment

Untold Blogpost Episode 11: Let’s Remove Small Barriers of Communication

By Mendee Jargalsaikhan 

Our guest is a third-year student at the Mongolian International University (MIU). From her home soum in Bayankhongor Province, Ms Lkhamsuren shares with us her experience of secondary and post-secondary schools, her dream of educating the young generation, and her thoughts on an inclusive society.

Kind-hearted Teachers in Bayankhongor

She started to lose her eyesight from the eighth grade. It became worse as she went on to the ninth grade, when she could not read and write anymore at all. But her teachers and friends helped her with the lessons by reading them for her and teachers let her take oral exams, although this practice was not formally accepted. She will never forget these kind-hearted teachers and classmates in Bayankhongor. Once it became clear for her that she could not continue her schooling, she stayed with her parents who were herders. As she recalled, it was so exciting to hear about school life (‘rumours’) every time her sisters and brothers returned home during the school breaks but saddening to farewell them back to school dorms. At that time, the most difficult decision for her was whether to burn or keep her diaries.  Those contained the most valuable memories of her childhood, but she could not read them. Though she accepted the fact of blindness, she could not stop thinking about schooling. Luckily, her parents were brave enough to send their daughter to the country’s only secondary school for vision-impaired children in the capital city Ulaanbaatar.   

Photo: Lkhamsuren herself (with the permission of Lkhamsuren)

The 116th Secondary School

The first few months were so difficult, she sighed. Although she eventually learned the Braille alphabet within a month, her fingers were at first not cooperating, and the reading was most challenging. However, she made new friends who helped her to get over the challenges of Braille and the homesickness. In the first year, her dad used to visit almost every week, travelling over 800 kms from Bayankhongor to the capital city, just to check if their daughter was doing fine. She was thankful that her parents made such a brave decision to support their daughter’s dream of studying and becoming a teacher. During her study at the 116th secondary school, she noticed the significant improvement of the school’s facility and technology related to the Braille program. The school is now equipped with the Braille printing technology and software. However, young teachers need to be prepared to work with the students. There were three common problems with these new teachers: (1) some have personal issues, especially biases against the students, (2) lack of knowledge of the old and new Braille technology and programmes, and (3) no or little psychological or mental preparation. It would be extremely helpful if they had a short, practical job training before working at the secondary school. Otherwise, the students would suffer as these teachers are trying to overcome these challenges by making mistakes and increasing pressures on the students. 

Studying at the University

Now Lkhamsuren is pursuing her dream of becoming an English language teacher at the Mongolian International University (MIU). After graduating from university, she wants to teach at a language learning centre or regular secondary schools, not only to show that a girl with impaired sight can pursue her dreams but also to spread knowledge about disabled people in our society. One day, her students, who will then be knowledgeable about people with disabilities, would help many understand the concept of an inclusive society. At university, she has been busy with numerous important projects. She was a member of a team composed of people with other types of disabilities. Her team successfully participated in the national as well as the regional Asia-Pacific IT competitions. Furthermore, she conducted research to assess the toilet accessibility for the people with disabilities and presented her results at an academic conference. Except for the toilets in a handful of business and service centres, most toilets were not accessible to people with disabilities – not even for a person without disabilities. 

Photo: Lkhamsuren participating in Global IT Challenge 2018 (with the permission of Lkhamsuren)

What Should Be Done

The laws, regulations, and standards, need to be complied with by the construction companies in order to improve the accessibility of the infrastructure for people with disabilities. The statements of our earlier guests resonate with Lkhamsuren: buildings, roads, and washrooms, should be universally accessible for all people (elders, sick, or with small children).  Therefore, it is not an issue that concerns only people in wheelchairs or people with walking sticks. According to our guest, two things should be done: (1) the standards must be inspected and hold responsible those failed to comply these standards, and (2) people who are designing and building should consider the users of these facilities.

Another suggestion for improvement is to increase the use of the internet for the dissemination of information to people with disabilities and to parents with disabled children. The government organizations and non-governmental organizations could provide more information about their activities to the public. Instead of targeting only people with disabilities, the online platform should be used to promote the idea of an inclusive society. They could create contents and programmes for adults, school children, and even kindergarteners. Why do we not, for example, create cartoons about five friends, and one of them has a disability. This will help small children learn about children with disabilities, and eventually change their attitudes towards their friends with disabilities. It would teach them that a person in a wheelchair could dance, and a blind person could read. 

Education – Everyone Should Promote

Our guest was constantly emphasising the importance of education. Education will help people with disabilities unlock their potential and pursue their dreams. There are three reasons for which children with disabilities cannot pursue education. First, they and their parents do not know about their capability to learn and develop. Second, there are only a handful of schools with limited space. For instance, there is only one secondary school for children with impaired eyesight in the entire country. Parents, especially those residing in the countryside, cannot send their children away due to financial constraints. Third, parents just do not want to send their children to school because they want to keep them close by. To change these types of negative attitudes, the government should send out positive messages about schooling children with disabilities to the parents, as well as their children. Lkhamsuren hopes that social influencers could take a lead in this regard. In that way, they would encourage parents to send their children to school and contribute to better public awareness about disabilities. 

Impacts of the COVID-19

The pandemic hits everyone hard. It was quite difficult financially when she was at the dormitory during the lockdown, even though the school provided some support. Once she was back with her siblings in the home soum, things got better. However, she could not visit her parents who are herding the cattle in the countryside. Her brothers and sisters have fallen behind in their schooling. For her, online schooling became the new normal. Indeed, we all hope things will go back to normal and that Lkhamsuren can visit her parents as often as she pleases.

There were many topics we could talk about with Lkhamsuren, and we know there are many stories which she would like to share. Here is one piece of advice for our readers and listeners. In our conversation, several examples came up about how people get nervous when they meet or talk to people with impaired eyesight. She advised that we should treat any person with disability just like any other normal person. Of course, there are some challenges these people experience – but they want to be treated as equals.  So, if you want to talk to a person with a white cane or a person in a wheelchair, speak and act normally.  

The Untold podcast and blog post are made available by the generous support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Mongolia. We also want to thank our editor Riya Tikku.

Posted in Education, Higher Education, People with Disabilities, Podcast, Primary and Secondary Education | Tagged | Leave a comment

What’s Wrong with Chinggis Studies?

By Julian Dierkes

Okay, the enforced brevity of tweets got me into some trouble here.

Bolor Lkhaahjav was right for calling me out for my tweet.

And so was Kenny Linden for chiming in.

So, let me see if I can make a more reasonable argument with a bit more space/words.

Relative Allocation of Scarce Research Resources

Mongolia’s resources that can be devoted to social science and humanities research are scare. Similarly, the academic attention to social/cultural aspects of Mongolia (past, present and future) is limited internationally.

If you set those domestic resources at an imagined 100 units, then my feeling is that most decision-makers (politicians, but also research and academic managers, two groups that often overlap given the political appointments to research leadership positions) would allocate somewhere around 60 units to Chinggis Studies, 20 to Mongolian as a language and the remaining scraps to all kinds of other topics.

If you think of international social science and humanities research interest in Mongolia at a similar 100 units, the proportion devoted to 13th century is much lower but still significant, perhaps 20 or so. A much greater variety of topics commands attention with clusters of interest focused on Buddhism, animal husbandry and pasture management, etc. I would not attempt to come up with a complete list here. Though, very notably, there are some very different approaches and very different emphases on language with Eastern Europe and much of Asian academic interest being very philological, i.e. rooted in very deep engagement with language and focus on culture, while Western Europe, North America, and Oceania is a bit more social sciency in predominant interests, though with a heavy dose of archaeology and historical work sprinkled in.

My Perspective – in the Abstract

On a global scale, there is nothing wrong with any of that. I would always make the case for the greatest possible variety of academic interests and strongly believe in the value of Orchideenfächer (orchid-ology, or seemingly obscure niches of academic interest) to humanity and not just in the sense of benefitting by enabling development or anything like that, but very much by benefitting humanity by expanding our knowledge. It’s one of the reasons I am very happy to teach at a very large university where many different research interests can be supported.

Note that my own interest in contemporary Mongolia seems very odd, niche and possibly obscure to many of my colleagues. Likewise with my research on Japan. That’s okay and I am grateful that these niches exist and would always defend them.

However…

You knew from the previous paragraph that a big “But…” was coming.

What drives research interests? All kinds of factors from the very personal/autobiographical, to accidents, to opportunities that present themselves. The development of research interests (including my own in Mongolia) is thus somewhat  haphazard and that’s how it should be. I don’t believe in “science policy” that starts from the premise of utility to make the case for differential founding – contrary to what my tweets may have suggested, I fear.

Yet, it is contemporary Mongolia that I find so rich in potential research topics, not centuries’ ago history.

Yes, that is in part because I am fundamentally more interested in modern society and that’s a matter of taste. It’s also because I believe – as a sociologist – that while we carry all kinds of historical imprinting on our social behaviour, ultimately this collective behaviour can change through contemporary action, including policy, we are not determined by our past even though it continues to reverberate.

But when I take the bus across Ulaanbaatar or when I have a chance to chat with a political activist in a far-flung soum, many, many research questions come to my mind where the dynamism of Mongolian society (demography, political/institutional change, the herding economy, the geopolitical situation, religious dynamics etc. etc.) are unusual in the world and thus lend themselves to comparative research where Mongolia is not merely an exoticized case study, but rather a useful case for comparison.

Many of those questions (or their answers, though, of course, social science and humanities answers are not always crisp, clear or straight-forward) have a direct impact on the choices that today’s Mongolians are making. Research that examines these choices would offer a type of understanding that will inform subsequent decisions more directly than a better understanding of long-ago historical dynamics, as fascinating as those are.

Side-Note: Impact of Chinggis-Focus on International Perceptions

Maybe a Chinggis Museum is a good idea for tourism, for Mongolia is famous for Chinggis Khaan, after all. So, perhaps more tourists will visit the Museum than used to visit the Museum of Natural History. Maybe. But what this along with the policy-preference for Chinggis Studies as expressed in Pres Khurelsukh’s campaign platform will do is, it will lock Mongolia for the foreseeable future into a cage of the exotic, quaint and irrelevant.

Again, that may be a good marketing scheme for tourism and probably also for cashmere and other natural products. I cannot see individual Mongolians benefitting from this strategy other than in those sectors. If I, as a German, wandered the world telling everyone how fascinating Carolingian history is ,who would accept me as a student (other than scholars of Charlemagne), who would want to talk to much less do business with me? With their focus on Chinggis, policy makers are very much limiting the opportunities of young Mongolian scholars, or at least of those of those scholars who happened not to want to be Chinggis scholars. Yes, members of an International Association of Chinggis Studies will be ferociously loyal to contemporary Mongolia, of course, except for those engaged in Chinggis Studies in Southern Mongolia where such scholars may be more numerous but their motivations and the state’s support is highly suspect. But to everyone else, this will always remain an obscure niche.

Side-Note: Contemporary?

Yes, history. I am fascinated by history myself, a fascination that led straight to a dissertation on history education in Japan and the Germanys, albeit from a sociological perspective. Through my exposure to Mongolia scholarship I have learned more and become very interested in Central Asian history, including long-ago history. What an array of language and cultures, but also forms of state organization, etc.

And yes, there are many aspects of Mongolia history that are hugely fascinating. But my personal preference directs me at contemporary or, at least, modern history, call it the late 19th, 20th and 21st century. From what I have been able to read in non-Mongolian sources (my limitation for scholarly work at least), I still don’t really have a strong sense of what happened from 1911 through 1930 or so. Even though things get a bit clearer by the time of the democratic revolution, it took Mendee’s dissertation for me to get a better sense of how that revolution was possible and what impact it had. There are episodes in contemporary history that I find fascinating, such as the disbanding of the Mongolian military prior to the Sino-Soviet split. But really, where I get more actively interested is from 1990 on.

Bottom Line

Please, as researchers, follow your interests even if those include the 13th century. But as policy makers, consider what niche you want your budding researchers to be locked into and whether you don’t want to document and understand all the changes that are occurring in Mongolia right now. My allocation of research units would be closer to the opposite of what I observe, namely Chinggis Studies 20: contemporary Mongolia 80.

And yes, as will be clear to many readers, this is a self-serving argument coming from me.

And no, for now, there will not be a “Chinggis” category on this blog. ????

Posted in History, Reflection, Research on Mongolia | Tagged | Leave a comment

Untold Blogpost Episode 10: Don’t Advise, Just Be a Friend

By Mendee Jargalsaikhan 

We asked Mr. A. Khash – a host at the MGLRadio – to tell his story of inspiring our first guest Mr. Battulga Ganbaatar when he lost hope. So, we asked what the magic was that unlocked Battulga’s perseverance and fight for life.

 

Just Want to Talk

One day, Mr. Khash decided to see someone at the hospital because he knew how difficult it is to be in hospital when there is no one who visits. So, he made lapsha – a noodle soup – and went to the Hospital for Injury and Trauma. “It’s always hard to start,” he said, but he went to the reception and asked if there was someone who never received visitors. After answering many questions from a surprised nurse, he met a guy who had lost his legs, was abandoned by his wife, and left with their daughter. Khash told the guy that he would see him at 2 pm every Tuesday. Khash said it was a good feeling that every Sunday his new friend at the hospital called him and asked for the time of his arrival. For them, food or snacks were not important, but the conversations and the feeling that someone needs you, as Khash stressed, Goyo [nice]. And he adds that he did not go to a hospital out of generosity, but rather to make his life interesting. In other words, although he did this for selfish reasons, it helped him realize the value of life. After visiting his friend for over six months, his friend asked Khash if he would continue to see him -once he was discharged from the hospital- in his home in the ger district in Bayankhoshuu, an outskirt area of UB. And of course, since it is not a project with end date, Khash continues his friendship with him. 

Photo: Khash himself (with the permission of Khash)

Meeting with Battulga

Some time later, while Khash was driving, he heard his new friend talking about him on the 104.5 radio station and he was thinking about making more friends. After listening to this broadcast, Battulga’s dad called Khash and asked him to see his son. So, Khash visited a handsome young man, who had a terrible accident and he looked at Khash with a puzzled look. Hence, Khash explained that his dad asked him to talk to him and they just talked. One thing that he realized throughout his life is to never give advice or try to change a person. Because when you give advice, it helps little, and instead creates additional stress for that person. Whenever he visits Battulga, he just talks about what happened or what he did – sometime, he would frankly talk about his terrible day and things he had done. And he just listened to Battulga. According to Khash, if you don’t feel his pain or have a similar experience, you are just lying and not helping. 

Telling the Truth

For Khash, Battulga was a strong man who tried to use the bar to do pull ups and dumbbells. Battulga often asked “Khash brother, I will stand up, right?” Khash never answered that question because he didn’t know the answer. But one day, Khash asked Battulga if he believed his life would only continue after he stood up and he thought his life stopped when he was on the bed. Khash told Battulga what he would do if he could not stand up – he would be just waiting in vain. As Khash recalled, this conversation helped him to understand the reality and it was thought provoking. Another moment which Khash shared with us was about Battulga’s dream of learning English. Battulga kept telling him that he wanted to learn English and complained about not having someone who would practice English with him. After hearing this for a while, Khash told him what a demanding and spoiled person he was. If he were in prison, he would ask from the prison authority to bring him an English-speaking person to practice with him in the prison. There are many people who learned 2-3 languages while in prison. Here, Khash explained his understanding of advising or talking about reality. People should avoid giving advice on things they do not know about or advice they don’t trust themselves. Instead, they should be frank about things that they see and understand. 

Being Selfish Makes Your World Smaller

Throughout the podcast, Mr. Khash explained how selfishness would make life boring. Once someone becomes self-centered and selfish, their worldview becomes narrow, and one is easily isolated from social interactions.  As you start talking to people and listening to their views, you begin to feel connected. This eventually helped him to find his place in the world – being a talk show host. During this pandemic, he stopped visiting people, but he still talks to them over the phone and keeps his friendships intact. Before the pandemic, he joined other colleagues who visited the people who were struggling and felt abandoned. And he did not want to publicize his good deed efforts. Frankly, he told us, he hates campaigning or doing humanitarian activities for political or even social credits. 

Helping out a Chinese Woman

One interesting story, which would be worthwhile to share, is his story of helping an old Chinese woman to cross the road during the anti-Chinese period of the 1970s. He was an 8-year-old boy when he saw a Chinese woman, who had bound feet and was trying to cross the street. Without thinking about the consequences of helping the most-hated minority in Mongolia at that time, he quickly held her hand and helped her cross the street. While on the road, he hoped that she would walk quickly and was afraid of being noticed by other children of the neighbourhood. After crossing the street, the old lady held his hand and graciously thanked him. At that moment, Khash felt the joy of helping others. 

This was the last episode of our Untold podcast and, another touching one. Especially, when he told about the moment when our first guest was asking Khash to bring a gun to end his difficult and hopeless life. Encountered with that moment, Khash did not know what to say, but managed to say that he would come back tomorrow. We don’t know if that sentence left Battulga realizing that there were people who would come for him and talk. Let’s end here with Khash’s word – just talk to people and help them with all your heart. 

The Untold podcast and blog post are made available by the generous support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Mongolia. We also want to thank our editor Riya Tikku.

 

Posted in Health, Mendee Jargalsaikhan, People with Disabilities, Podcast | Tagged | Leave a comment

Recollections of an Airport

By Julian Dierkes

An international airport is a gateway to a country. For me, apart from a Transsiberian trip in 1991 (watch my Twitter account later in July for a mini 30-year commemoration of my trip), the Ulaanbaatar airport has been my gateway for the past 15 years. While I’ve complained about having to transfer in Beijing with its – at best – surely officials, or about the long layovers that transferring in Seoul inevitably seems to produce, arrival at Buyant-Ukhaa International Airport and thus in Mongolia has always been a joy and departure has come with some sorrow. My first-ever blog post here was about arriving at ULN.

Now, there is a new airport and we’ll switch from ULN to UBN as my dream destination for flights.

Recollections

First Arrival

I’d have to look up the exact date, but I think it was in 2005 that I first arrived in Ulaanbaatar at the beginning of discovering my “Inner Mongolian”. This was a follow-up to a state visit that Pres N Bagabandi paid to Canada in 2004. I arrived nominally to assess whether there were exchange opportunities for UBC in Mongolia and my initial contact then was the Mongolian National Univ of Medical Sciences (АШУҮИС). I had been in touch with officials there prior to the visit and thought that I had made some arrangements, but I really did not have much of a plan. I am pretty sure that I arrived in the middle of the night, probably having transferred in Beijing. Something did not quite go right with the pick-up, but I forget what exactly. I do remember standing in front of the airport (which had not made much of an impression) thinking to myself, “What have I got myself into?” Little did I know!

Somehow I did get picked up and headed into the city, staying at the Ulaanbaatar Hotel that time, I think. The drive into the city was quite memorable and I was starting out of the window the whole time, of course.

In 2005, the city had not spread beyond the Tuul toward the airport. That end of town was really quite dark and the intersection that comes on the way into town just after passing the power plants still had the police box very visible, something that I only knew from childhood visits to Eastern Europe.

The Ride from the Airport

If I searched through photo collections or old posts, I’d probably find some photos or other posts, but will just recollect here.

On some winter-time visit, I was amazed by the decorations of the big street into town, trough Khaan-Uul. It was lit up in so many colours blinking away like a giant horizontal Christmas tree.

That street sure changed over the years. All kinds of developments sprung up, even while that miserable Mongolian-Japanese tree planting project did not exactly produce a wind barrier, but rather a line of scraggly trees that seem not to have grown in the 15 years that I’ve noticed them.

I also remember once taking a photo of a bunch of cows grazing on the lawn in front of the airport with its vaguely Mongolesque tower. That was a nice photo!

Now, there is a much bigger bridge across the Tuul and the mountainside road, the various horseracing, archery and wrestling venues, giant malls, etc. When you arrived into ULN in recent years, that sense of having landed in a far-off place has largely dissipated with the arrival of legitimate taxis and urban encroachment in the direction of the airport.

Landing

For the first five years of regular visits to Mongolia, the only route seemed to be MIAT or Air China through Beijing. Or, maybe it was just the cheapest and I had not developed the professional clout to refuse Beijing connections yet. Regardless, it seemed like every third CA flight did not land. Ugh, the misery of the PEK airport with the ULN flight inevitably scheduled to leave from the darkest, furthest-away gate. Either this was after a long transpacific flight or, worse, a night spent in Beijing. Then, approach to ULN… and the pilot turned around to dump us back at the gate at PEK where no plans would be communicated and passengers were left to their own devices until we were herded back onto a plane in a great hurry to depart. Yes, those cross-winds, apparently. And thus a strong preference for MIAT pilots who did not seem so challenged by landing at ULN.

VIP Section

Once I had the dubious honour of being afforded VIP treatment at ULN. That did not work out so well since I had checked luggage and the system to identify VIP luggage seemed to be to wait until all luggage was collected and whatever was left must have been this VIP’s. I did not rely on connections to be allowed the VIP treatment in the future, though I did request this once. A UBC executive was coming to Ulaanbaatar for some discussions. I called ahead and had them met at the door of the plane and whisked to the VIP terminal. This official travelled for a living (my impression), but had not received the VIP treatment before and was absolutely thrilled!

Notable Events: Attempted Akçay Abduction

Remember when the Erdogan regime tried to abduct Turkish educator Veysel Akçay from Ulaanbaatar in summer 2018? There was a long standoff between protestors who also gathered at the airport and a small jet that had arrived with four Turkish officials, but was meant to depart with five passengers.

Every once in a while I saw curious airplanes at the airport. Visiting Arabian princes of sorts (in Mongolia for falconry, perhaps), giant cargo planes to shuttle Mongolian peace keepers, various foreign government planes, etc.

Outlook

I have not been excited about the new airport. The train line was never going to get built, so now the long drive into the city seems pretty daunting. Hopefully the cross-winds won’t menace landings so much anymore and I am really hoping that new international services, esp. also the resumption of Asian flights into UBN that allow for a Star Alliance connection from Vancouver without visiting Beijing or flying CA, will mean that service will be a bit more reliable.

More connections into Ulaanbaatar was supposed to be the point of a new airport, but we’ll have to see whether landing slots will actually be made available. Who knows whether I might not still fly into ULN some day.

But even then, flights directly from N America seem quite unlikely, so I will always be exhausted, so the long drive into the city will not be welcome. And, this will also mean even earlier departures for the airport to account for the vagaries of traffic and the insistence on pre-departure early arrival. But I know that I will still be so happy when landing in Ulaanbaatar to come to visit in the future!

Posted in Change, Infrastructure, Social Change, Tourism, Ulaanbaatar | Tagged | Leave a comment

Young Voter Turnout

By Julian Dierkes

There has been some debate around the low turnout rate in Mongolian election. The overall turnout was under 60% and thus much lower than the first round in 2017 and a continuation of the long-term trend of declining participation.

This long-term trend is something that Adhy Aman has looked at in a blogpost for the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). His focus on the youth vote is also reasonable even in simply eyeballing turnout by five-year cohorts as the General Election Commission done and as is reproduced by ikon.mn, for example.

While 18-19 year-olds voted at nearly the national rate, turnout drops significantly for voters in their 20s and even in their 30s.

Voter Registration as a Reason for Low Voter Turnout

Obviously, the greatest concern about the lack of political participation of young voters is that they are disengaged and unconcerned about elections and democracy.

But there may also be a host of other reasons that might keep young voters from voting.

In discussions, a number of people have pointed out that challenges in the registration process coupled with COVID restrictions may have generally depressed turnout and especially so for young voters.

One of the measures that has been adopted to combat air pollution in Ulaanbaatar is a restriction on migrating to the city. Or, more administratively, a restriction on new residence registrations to the city.

This puts migrants to the city in the situation that they are unable to register locally. Not only does this have an impact on their access to social services, but it also means that they are unable to vote in Ulaanbaatar if that is where they are residing.

The additional twist in this year’s election would be that COVID restrictions would have also prevented voters to travel to their places of registration to vote there.

Voter Registration and Young Voters

How does this affect young voters in particular?

  1. It is generally assumed (and there probably is evidence for this in the census) that migrants to Ulaanbaatar are disproportionately younger.
  2. University students who are younger will have been affected even more this year by the early election date. While elections in the past had been held in late June when students might have returned to family homes, the early June election date, especially under pandemic conditions, will have prevented them from voting. This may also explain the big drop-off from the 18-19 year-old voters to the next older cohort of 20-24 year-olds, from 56.5% to 43.7% (the lowest turnout of any age group).

What about Absolute Numbers of Young Voters?

But turnout out only tells part of the story, what about absolute numbers?

Clearly, the Mongolian population pyramid looks very different from that of Canada or Germany, for example, with very large birth cohorts of young people (see, for example, multiple tables/charts provided by the Mongolian Statistical Information Service). In 2020, people under 30 were more than half of the total population and the single largest 5-year cohort was Mongolians from 5-9 at nearly 390,000. By contrast, only 85,000 Mongolians were over 70 years old in 2020, only 2.5% of the population.

Given this demographic reality, the small percentages of younger Mongolians voting still translate into large absolute numbers and thus a lot of political power.

The total turnout for the under-30 was thus only 46.8%, but that still translated into 251k votes, or roughly 1/5 of all the votes casts.

By contrast, older voters participated much more actively (73.3% of the over 70 age group), but their votes added up to much fewer votes than the under 30s (63k in total).

So, yes, it certainly is a concern that younger voters are participating in lower numbers than older Mongolians. This is perhaps even more surprising, however, when considering that younger Mongolians by the sheer power of their absolute numbers hold considerable power.

Posted in Demography, Elections, Presidential 2021, Younger Mongolians, Youth | Tagged | Leave a comment

Untold Blogpost Episode 9: Хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэд хотод нуугдаж амьдардаг

Мөнхбатын Сайнбуян

Энэ удаагийн зочин болох Анне Тулкин маань АНУ-аас холбогдлоо. Тэрээр АНУ-ын хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй оюутнуудад зориулсан Нээлттэй Коллеж (Accessible College)-ийг үүсгэн байгуулсан ба одоо захирлаар нь ажиллаж байна.

Хатагтай Тулкин 2007-2008 онд “Сургуульд суралцагч хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй хүүхдийн асуудалд хандах Монгол багш, сонирхогч бүлгүүдийн хандлага”-ын тухай магистрын ажлын судалгаа хийжээ. Бидэнтэй “Сайн байцгаана уу” хэмээн Монголоор мэндлээд, өөрийгөө манай улстай зүрх сэтгэлээрээ холбоотой нэгэн хэмээн танилцуулсан юм. Тэрээр анх 2003 онд АНУ-ын Энх тайвны корпусын сайн дурын ажилтнаар Дорнод аймгийн Чойбалсан хотын ерөнхий боловсролын 8-р сургуульд хоёр жил ажиллаж, тус сургуулийн багш нарын заах арга зүйг сайжруулах чиглэлээр Энх тайваны корпусын төсөл хэрэгжүүлжээ. Хожим АНУ-д магистрантурт суралцаж байхдаа Фулбрайтын хөтөлбөрийн тэтгэлэгт хамрагдан, өмнө дурдсан судалгааны ажлаа хийн, дахиад жил гаруй Монгол Улсад амьдарсан байна. Монголд элгэмсэг хатагтай Тулкин хуримынхаа бал сарыг хүртэл манай улсад тэмдэглэжээ.

Хөдөө орон нутагт хөгжлийн бэрхшээл илүү ойр мэдрэгддэг

Энх тайваны корпусын Монгол амьдрал, ахуйтай танилцах сургалтаа Хатагтай Тулкин Сэлэнгэ аймгийн Баруунхараа суманд хийжээ. Хөдөөний айлд гурван сар сууж, Монгол соёл, ёс заншилтай танилцаж, хэлний эрчимтэй сургалтад хамрагдсан тэрээр шууд алс зүүн хязгаарын Чойбалсан хотод ажиллахаар болжээ. Тус хотод  ажиллаж байхдаа тэрээр ерөнхий боловсролын сургуульд нь хэд хэдэн хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй хүүхдүүд байхыг анзаарчээ. Тухайн үед оюуны бэрхшээлтэй хүүхдийг эргэн тойрных нь хүмүүс “тэнэг хүүхэд” гэж дууддаг байсныг тэрээр дурсаад, аливаа хүн хөгжлийн бэрхшээлийг хэрхэн тодорхойлж байгаа нь тэдний хандлагаар илэрхийлэгддэг болохыг онцолсон. 

Мөн хөдөлгөөний бэрхшээлтэй хүүхдүүдийн хувьд сургуулийн орчин хүртээмжтэй бус, саад ихтэй байсан хэдий ч үе тэнгийн найзууд нь тэдэнд ихээхэн тусалдаг болохыг тэрээр ажигласан байна. Хоттой харьцуулахад хөдөө, орон нутагт хүн амын тоо бага учраас хүмүүс бие биенээ сайн таньдаг. Иймээс хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй нэгнийг нуух боломжгүй. Ийм нөхцөл байдлын улмаас хөдөө дэх хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэд хот суурин газартай харьцуулбал нийгмийн харилцаанд түлхүү ордог. Нутгийн иргэд хөгжлийн бэрхшээлийг Бурхны шашинтай холбон тайлбарладаг. Тухайлбал, өмнөх төрөлдөө муу зүйл үйлдвэл энэ төрөлдөө хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй болж төрнө гэх ойлголт Монголчуудын дунд зонхилж байсан нь хатагтай Тулкины гайхлыг төрүүлж байсан аж.  

Тэрээр Улаанбаатар хотод судалгааны ажлаа хийх явцдаа хотын амьдралтай танилцаж, хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэдийн амьдрал ахуй, тэдэнд хандах хүмүүсийн хандлагын талаарх бодлоо бидэнтэй илэн далангүй хуваалцсан юм. Хөдөөтэй харьцуулахад хотод хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй хүмүүс гадуур бараг л харагддаггүй, зөвхөн гуйлга гуйж байгаа юм уу эсвэл гэр оронгүй хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй хүмүүс л гудамжинд харагдагддаг. Учир нь Улаанбаатар хотын хувьд дэд бүтэц хүртээмжтэй бус, ээлгүй байгаагаас хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэд гадуур чөлөөтэй зорчиж чаддаггүйтэй холбоотой хэмээн тэр тайлбарлав. Мөн хотод хүмүүс илүү хаалттай төдийгүй хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй хүүхдээ бусад хүмүүсээс нуух тохиолдол ч байдгийг хатагтай Тулкин анзаарчээ.

Анне судалгаандаа хэд хэдэн чухал асуудлыг хөндсөн. Жишээлбэл, хөдөө орон нутагт хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэд илүү гадуур гарч, хүмүүстэй харилцдаг ч энэ нь яг тэгш хамруулалт байж чадах уу? Монголчуудын хувьд  тэгш хамруулалт гэж яг юуг хэлээд байгааг ойлгохыг оролдсон нь цаашид түүнийг  тусгай боловсролын чиглэлээр судалгаа хийхэд нь чухал нөлөө үзүүлжээ.

Зураг: Анне Чойбалсан хотын 8-р сургуулийн багш нарын хамт Хэнтий аймгийн Дадал сумд, 2004 он (Аннегийн зөвшөөрөлтэйгөөр оруулав)

Алдагдсан боломжууд

АНУ-ын хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэдийн эрхийг хамгаалах хууль эрх зүйн орчин нь хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэдийг  хамгаалах, дэмжихэд чухал нөлөө үзүүлснийг хатагтай Тулкин бидэнд онцолж байв. Ялангуяа, хоёр хуулийг ( The Rehabiliation Act 1973, Americans with Disabilities Act 1990) тэрээр тусгайлан дурьдаж, энэ нь АНУ зэрэг  хөгжингүй орнуудад дээр үеэс хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэдийнхээ  эрхийг хамгаалах, тэднийг хөдөлмөр эрхлэлт болон боловсролын салбарт  ялгаварлан гадуурхах явдлыг зогсоох, орчны хүртээмжийг сайжруулах зэрэгт анхаарч ирснийг сонсоод атаархаж сууснаа нуух аргагүй. Гэтэл манай  улсын хувьд хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэдийн эрхийн тухай хуулийг тавхан жилийн өмнө анх баталсан нь энэ хоёр нийгмийн хооронд асар их ялгаа байгааг түүнтэй ярилцахдаа мэдэрсэн юм. Хэдийгээр орчныг бүх нийтэд хүртээмжтэй болгох тухай хууль, дүрэм журам, стандарт нь батлагдчихсан боловч эдгээрийг хэрэгжүүлэх, хянан шалгах тогтолцоо сул байна. Үүнийг манай зочин онцолж, бид хууль тогтоомжоо хэрэгжүүлэхгүй, хяналтгүй сул орхисноор хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэд ээлтэй орчин буй болгох боломжоо энэ их хурдацтай хотжилтын үйл явцад алдсаар л байна. Анхнаас нь чанарын стандартын дагуу барихгүй, налуу зам барьсан гэсэн нэр төдий байх нь эргээд хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэдэд учрах орчны саадыг арилгаж чадахгүй юм. Хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэд  гадуур чөлөөтэй, саадгүй явдаг байж л нийгмийн амьдралд тэгш хамрагдаж, өөрсдийн эрхийг хамгаалахаар гарч ирж, дуу хоолойгоо хүргэх болно гэдгийг тэрээр онцолсон юм. 

АНУ-ын хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэдийн эрхээ хамгаалуулахаар тэмцэж буй баримтат кино (Crip Camp)-г үзэхийг хатагтай Тулкин бидэнд санал болгосон. Энэ нь манайхан ч гэсэн АНУ-ын нэгэн адил  хүний эрхийг дээдлэдэг ардчилсан орны хувьд иргэд дуу хоолойгоо чөлөөтэй илэрхийлээсэй, хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэд маань эрхийнхээ төлөө тэмцээсэй гэж хэлэхийг зорьсон мэт. Ярилцлагын явцад зочин маань Монгол хүмүүст байдаг сайхан чанарыг олонтаа дурсаж байв. Тухайлбал, Монголд гудамжинд явж буй хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэдийг хараад хэн ч уриалгахан тусалдаг нь нөгөө талаараа тэдэнд өдөр тутамд тулгардаг орчны саадыг нь давахад тусалдаг гэсэн юм.

Зураг: Анне найз Сараагийн ахын хамт Дорнод аймагт, 2004 он (Аннегийн зөвшөөрөлтэйгөөр оруулав)

ХБИ-ийн талаарх ойлголтыг нэмэгдүүлэхдээ

Хатагтай Тулкин 2008 онд хийсэн судалгааны ажилдаа манайд хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэдийн талаарх ойлголт, хандлага муу байгаа нь нийгэмд эргээд олон сөрөг асуудал үүсэхэд нөлөөлж байдаг талаар бичсэн байдаг. Хэрхэн хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэдийн талаарх ойлголтыг нэмэгдүүлж, хандлагыг эерэг болгох талаарх бидний асуултад тэрээр ямар ч эргэлзээгүйгээр мэдээллийн хэрэгслүүдээр хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэдийн төлөөллийг оруулцуул, олон нийтэд таниулах хэрэгтэй гэж хэлсэн юм. Хэдийгээр нийгэмд  энэ асуудлаар бусад хүмүүс ярихгүй байсан ч гэсэн дуу хоолойгоо тасралтгүй хүргэх хэрэгтэй гэж тэрээр үздэг аж. Мөн Монголчуудыг Солонгос олон ангит кино үзэх дуртайг анзаарсан тэрээр хөгжлийн бэрхшээлтэй иргэдийн  талаарх дэлгэцийн контентыг нийтэд хүргэх нь үр дүнтэй аргуудын нэг хэмээн онцолсон юм. Эцэст нь хэлэхэд, зочин маань Монголд байхдаа Шар хадны эмнэлэгт (СЭМҮТ) оюуны хувьд ямар ч бэрхшээлгүй  тархины саажилттай хүүхдүүдийг байлгаж байсныг хараад  хэрвээ тэр хүүхдүүд АНУ-д төрсөн бол амьдрал нь ямар өөр байх байсан гэсэн бодол төрсөн гэдгээ хуваалцсан нь бид цаашид ямар их зүйл хийх хэрэгтэй, АНУ зэрэг орнуудаас хичнээн хол байгааг ахин нэг удаа ухааруулсан юм.  

М.Сайнбуян – Монголын Бодлогын Инновацийн Хүрээлэнгийн төслийн зохицуулагч бөгөөд Канадын Вотерлүүгийн Их Сургуульд улс төр судлал болон БНСУ-ын Ёнсей Их сургуульд эдийн засгийн чиглэлээр магистрын зэрэг тус тус хамгаалсан. Энэхүү подкастыг Фридрих-Эбертийн сангийн дэмжлэгтэйгээр хийлээ.

Posted in Education, Human Rights, People with Disabilities, Podcast, United States | Leave a comment

Party Support Across Aimags and the City

By Julian Dierkes

In 1996, the predecessor(s) of the DP won 50 of the 76 parliamentary seats at a time when P Ochirbat was still serving as president, having been swept into office by the democratic revolution. That was the last time a single political grouping (not quite a party yet) was as dominant as the MPP is now, having secured the presidency for U Khurelsukh after winning a landslide victory in the 2020 parliamentary election. The 1996 election seemed to herald a fundamental shift away from the then-MPRP, while the current situation represents the resurgence of the now-MPP and the demise of the DP seems increasingly likely. There will be much speculation and observation of the DP in the coming years, but here, I want to briefly focus on the election results of the three candidates/parties.

Khurelsukh/MPP

Talk about a landslide! Not only the biggest margin of victory in any presidential election, but some pretty astonishing margins in specifics aimags. Sure, aimags like Gobi-Altai or Sukhbaatar are not very populous (around 40k registered voters) but shares of the vote of 84.6% and 87.2%, respectively, are pretty astonishing in an election where voters had three other choices (if you include the blank ballot as an alternative) and were free to actually make that choice.

The 82.5% support in Khentii can at least be explained by that being Khurelsukh’s home province, but some of the other results? Yes, Gobi-Altai and Sukhbaatar had backed M Enkhbold in 2017 as well, but barely. Gobi-Altai in particular is surprising as the aimag had backed S Ganbaatar with over a third of the vote in 2017. While some of that might have been MPRP loyalists who might have voted MPP this time, a good number of those voters must have been protest voters (i.e. anti-MAHAH) and thus not likely Khurelsukh backers.

In Gobi-Altai, Khurelsukh garnered over 18,000 votes where M Enkhbold had received just under 9,600 or about half. [I will use approximate numbers below in case preliminary results are further adjusted. I’m working with ikon.mn’s summary of results because it is graphically most attractive.]

Khurelsukh’s “weakest” results came in the two almost-urban aimags of Darkhan-Uul and Orkhon, and in the Ulaanbaatar city districts, of course. Of the provinces, Selenge returned the weakest result for Khurelsukh with a still-astonishing 69.9%, but Selenge also had a very low turnout at 51.2%.

The city is a different story. Ignoring the smaller satellite districts, Khurelsukh’s strongest result came in Songinokhairkhan (67.3%, close to the national result of 67.7%), while the weakest result was still a majority of voters in Bayangol district (52.6%).

Enkhbat/KhUN

My Twitter bubble was pretty enthusiastic about Enkhbat’s candidacy. Perhaps more enthusiastic even than about KhUN in last year’s parliamentary election. And, perhaps, no surprise there, as foreign-trained, professional Ulaanbaatarites were assumed to be a strong source of support and are also represented disproportionately among my contacts. The greatest fear about Enkhbat’s chances probably was whether he was known by/would connect with rural voters.

His 20.3% really seems like quite a success in light of those questions. Yes, he did not come close to challenging Khurelsukh, nor even to forcing a run-off, but his candidacy certainly caught many voters’ attention despite his relative lack of political visibility since leaving parliament in 2012, and the very short campaign period to allow him to make himself better-known.

Some of the strong showing for Enkhbat surely is linked to the disaster that was the DP campaign. But note that Enkhbat came ahead of Erdene in all aimags except for Arkhangai and Bayan-Ulgii and his lead was typically greater than the share of blank ballots which most likely were DP protest voters.

Mongolians living abroad overwhelmingly supported Enkhbat, but that support only added 4k votes overall as voters had to come to embassies, something that might have been doable in geographically smaller countries like Japan or Germany, but a massive hurdle in Canada and the U.S., for example, particularly during pandemic travel injunctions.

In the populous city districts, Enkhbat received more than 30% of the votes in Bayangol, Bayanzurkh, Sukhbaatar, and Khaan-Uul while still receiving more than 20% in Songinokhairkhan and Chingeltei. Clearly, this vote went much, much beyond a bubble of foreign-educated urban elites. In those six populous districts, Enkhbat received more than 160k votes, hardly an elite in a city of 1.some million inhabitants.

Addendum June 24, 2021: Another way to think of that urban-rural difference is that of the total of just under 250k votes that Enkhbat received, approximately two thirds were cast in Ulaanbaatar while the remaining third were from other towns (Darkhan: 7,800, Erdenet: 8,000) and aimags. [Thanks to my colleague Brendan for asking about the share of absolute number of votes in a conversation!]

The most interesting result for the imminent future here is Songinokhairkhan, as D Sumiyabazar relinquished his parliamentary seat from that district when he became governor of Ulaanbaatar, necessitating a by-election for that seat. Vote shares here were Khurelsukh 67.3 (79k) Enkhbat 22.7% (27k) Erdene 4% (5k) blank  6% (7k) on turnout of 58.8%. Surely, KhUN will want to capitalize on Enkhbat’s success in the presidential election in that by-election, perhaps even by nominating Enkhbat and integrating him into the party.

Erdene/DP

There are so many ways in which this election was a (largely) self-inflicted disaster for S Erdene and for the DP.

There are no bright spots in the election results for Erdene or for the DP. Even if we assume that the majority of blank ballots cast were disaffected DP voters, the DP barely received over 20% in Arkhangai, an aimag where Battulga (barely) came ahead of M Enkhbold in the 2017 run-off. In Khovd, Ts Elbegdorj’s нутаг, the combined Erdene vote and blank ballots barely reached 13.3%, just ahead of Enkhbat at 12.7% and that assumes that all the blank ballots cast were DP voters.

In some of the most populous Ulaanbaatar ridings, Erdene barely received over 4% of the votes. 4%!

Posted in Democratic Party, Elections, Mongolian People's Party, National Labor Party, Party Politics, Politics, Presidential 2021 | Tagged | Leave a comment

Presidential Election Analyses & Outlook

Public Podium Discussion

Friday, June 11 18h (PST)/Saturday, June 12 9h (Ulaanbaatar)

Program

Moderator: Julian Dierkes, Univ of British Columbia

Observations on the Ground

  • Enkhtsetseg D, Open Society Forum: Domestic Election Observations
  • Jana Zilkova, Caritas Czech Republic in Mongolia: International Election Observations
  • Anand T, Journalist: Covering the Presidential Election

Observations from Afar

Discussion

Posted in Democracy, Elections, Events, Politics, Presidential 2021, Research on Mongolia, Video | Tagged | Leave a comment

More on the DP’s Platform – Future Directions in Human Rights and Governance?

By Marissa J. Smith

Last week I wrote a post overviewing the final section of the Democratic Party candidate S. Erdene’s campaign platform. I have had a chance since to read the remainder of the program closely, and am struck by the rest of the program’s specificity as well.

So what, you may ask? Especially now that the vote has come in, with Erdene dead last, with only six percent of the vote (just ahead of the “blank ballot” vote).

The DP platform intrigues me because it calls out with specificity issues with human rights and governance that have been at the forefront of policy debates for months, and though they have not been named in either the MPP (nor, notably, the KhUN) platforms, are not likely to go away. Their presence in Erdene’s platform also, I think, hints that there may be more unity in the DP than they have been given credit for (though the DP itself seems unlikely to be the vehicle through which these issues will be pressed, in the near term at least).

Balance of Power

While naming constitutional limits on the powers of the President, limits aggressively pursued by the MPP during the term of the DP president Battulga, the DP platform of candidate Erdene makes very specific proposals to change the structure of government. The platform points out remaining concerns about the powers of the National Security Council, and the hierarchical structure of prosecutors’ organization, as in need of reform. Limiting the investigation of grand corruption to the Anti-Corruption Agency is also proposed. These are in alignment with issues that have been at the forefront of conversations about political reform for some time now, but again, are absent from the MPP platform. (In this vein, Enkhbat’s platform is notable for calling for a legalization of the proportional electoral system, 4.3.)

In proposals that are more directed at checking the MPP’s power (and perhaps also checking loss of centralized control on the part of the DP), the DP platform also proposes to increase transparency over party finances, and to place limits on the elaboration of local party organization. (“Considering the huge amount of empty politicization and divisions at the primary and middle levels of government, a policy will be developed to create a legal environment that restricts the establishment of branches and units of political parties at the soum, bagh, district and khoroo levels.“)

Human Rights

As with the excerpts I previously covered, there is detail the DP platform about pressing human rights issues. While the MPP platform merely names “freedom of the press” as a human right that will be protected, the DP platform states (albeit in a section on anti-corruption) that it will protect whistleblowers (Mongolia has no whistleblower protection law). As previously covered, however, the platform also proposes to “abolish criminal liability for exercising freedom of the press.” The MPP platform notably makes no mention of Mongolia’s horrifying record of violence against women documented in 2017 by the UNFPA, and according to the UNDP of additional concern during the pandemic, while the DP platform calls attention even to workplace harassment (while gains have been made criminalizing domestic violence against women, sexual harassment has not yet been criminalized, despite the activism of many Mongolian women).

Overlaps

There is some overlap with the MPP’s platform. Both include statements about relationships with the global Mongolian diaspora, including with children who have been born abroad. Both also highlight the European Union in statements in the platform about broadening visa-free travel for Mongolian citizens. Both platforms also highlight violence against children as an issue to be tackled. Finally, while the DP lacks the detail of the MPP’s program on specific “mega-projects” and development plans for particular cities and regions, it is notable that the DP program states that only “at least ten percent” of state enterprises such as Erdenet be privatized via the Mongolian stock exchange.

Divergences on Military, Foreign Relations

(See also Bulgan’s post on this. She raises the very interesting issue of the difficulty of the Mongolian president’s position being prominent in international relations, but with limited powers.)

While both the MPP and the DP platforms discuss third neighbor policies and the military, there are notable differences. The DP platform highlights a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with the US and Japan as a goal, while the MPP platform notes “third neighbors,” but the only two countries specifically named are Russia and China. (Reference to “two foreign global languages” in secondary and higher education, “once the mother tongue is mastered,” is also made.) Regarding the military, the DP names a “Strong and Fast Army” program with recruitment of university students in computer technology, math, physics, and a focus on cyber security. On the other hand, the MPP platform proposes broader military participation — “The military unit and branch should be developed as a school for patriotic upbringing of young people, physical development, mental strength, acquisition of certain professions, human development environment and civic development” (2.2.9) and programs of military training for university and high school students( (3.1.15) (perhaps recognizing the fallout over Oyun-Erdene’s comments on the occasion of this past Women’s Day, young women’s participation is proposed to be strictly voluntary.)

Posted in Democratic Party, Elections, Governance, Human Rights, Marissa Smith, Mongolian Diaspora, Politics, Presidential 2021 | Tagged | Leave a comment

Presidential election candidates platform

By Bulgan B

The presidential election campaigning has ended officially on June 8 2021. The campaign lasted for ten days, and tomorrow, June 9th, we are likely to have a result or a likely decision on whether a second vote will be necessary as was the case in 2017.

Although late, I wanted to briefly survey each campaign platform on three main areas: Foreign Affairs and Military issues. According to the amendment to the constitution, the president would have a certain power in symbolic terms or executive terms (see article) over these three domains. Although judiciary is another area where previous President’s try to leverage power through appointments judges, prosecutors with the amendment to the constitution (Mongolia focus blogged extensively on it, please see here, and here for more information) the powers are restricted.

Before diving into the two categories, a short synopsis of the platforms is included below.

Right Person Electorate Coalition candidate D Enkhbat’s platform

Slogan/Motto: Do not include their campaign slogan. Their campaign slogan was “Mongolia can” – or “Mongolia is able” (See Marissa’s article for slogans for details and nuances).

General Summary: Compared to the other two candidates’ platforms, D Enkbat’s platform is only half as long, only seven pages. The platform includes a short introductory paragraph where it makes reference to Mongolia’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030. The platform continues with nine sections that are named as a declaration: [I] Shall be a President that:

  1. Enables unity, justice and equity.
  2. Protects national security and independence.
  3. Supports education policy that is based on sophisticated/developed systems and leading technology.
  4. Strengthens parliamentary democracy and human rights.
  5. Supports (pro) environment and sustainable development.
  6. Supports a sustainable economy that ensures innovation, free and healthy competition.
  7. Prioritizes national interests, and meets international standards, and respects foreign relations that are equal (balanced).
  8. Cherishes healthy Mongolians and Mongolian future.
  9. Rely on the citizen, not on any interest groups.

Democratic Party candidate S Erdene’s platform

Slogan/Motto: A country that respects individual rights – was the slogan for the platform. The campaign however used “Mongolia without Dictatorship” (see Marissa’s entry on slogans).

General Summary: The platform is 14 pages long, and has six sections. The introduction section includes references to “respecting the parliamentary governance”, “foreign policy that targets third neighbours” and reviving Democratic Mongolia. The intro section includes four bullet points declare to strengthen:

  • Mongolia’s foundational/root interests,
  • Mongolian’s human rights, and freedom,
  • Private property and economic rights and
  • Rule of law, and just government.

The six main sections are:

  1. National unity – Democratic governance
  2. Mongolian – Mongolian ethnos
  3. Foreign Relations – Neutrality policy
  4. Defence
  5. National Security
  6. Others

Mongolian People’s Party candidate U Khurelsukh’s platform

Slogan/Motto: The platform did not include its campaign slogan as part of the platform. U Khurelsukh’s campaign slogans are: “Owners of your wealth” and “Let’s serve/strive for Mongolia”  (see Marissa’s article for more). However, each subsection had motto/slogans or vignettes included that are different than the general campaign slogans.

General Summary: The length of the platform was the same as S Erdene’s, 14 pages long. The platform is divided into three main sections and each section has three subsections. The main sections are 1. Justice, 3. Unity and 3. Development. Below are the sections/subsections.

  1. Justice includes 1.1. Responsible Government – Just society, 1.2. Inclusive economy (not quite the translation – Иргэндээ хүртээмжтэй эдийн засаг) – fair distribution (of wealth). 1.3. National heritage and values to cherish.
  2. Unity includes 2.1. National unity to prioritize and protect, 2.2. National foundational/root interests and security, 2.3. A foreign policy to lead us to development.
  3. The development includes 3.1. Mongolian – Mongolian wealth, 3.2. Green Development – Mongolian Future; 3.3. Rural and Urban – Developmental Balance (equity).

Candidates’ stand on Foreign Affairs issues

The powers of the president on foreign affairs are limited.  Following three are the general areas of responsibility and rights:

  1. President holds power to represent Mongolia in foreign relations and can establish international contracts on behalf of Mongolia based on discussion with the parliament.
  2. President appoints and recalls ambassadors to other countries based on discussion with the parliament.
  3. President receives a letter of credence and recall of foreign heads of diplomatic missions.

Candidates have expressed their agenda on the first items – where they focus to improve relationships with the third neighbours and continue to respect the friendly relationships with the two neighbours.

The language/tone much differed between MPP ruling party candidate Khurelsukh and the other two candidates. U Kurelsukh’s language has not considered the limitations of the Presidential powers – and proposed implement activities. On the other hand, candidate D Enkhbat’s platform appeared general and S Erdene’s platform also struggled to remain within the established boundaries of the presidential powers.

D Enkhbat: Section 7. [I] shall be a President that prioritizes national interests, and meets international standards, and respects foreign relations that are equal (balanced).

Proposes to abide by the National Security Concept Paper as well as the Third Neighbour Policy and develop foreign relations policy that will support the joint implementation of big/mega projects. He also included friendly economic relations with the two neighbours China and Russia.

In terms of impact, will continue to advocate Mongolia as a centre for international dialogue, discussion and high-level meeting platform through active participation in the international community initiatives.

He includes that awareness and understanding of the existing economic structure, barriers, dependence and vulnerability and asserts that he will not tamper with the existing ecosystem (read the influence of China and Russia).  At the same time, he proposes to focus on mitigating these challenges and improve immunity and support a self-relied economy.

Domestically, he proposes to improve public servant’s knowledge, skills and capacity in the foreign relations area.

S Erdene: Section 3. Foreign Relations – Neutrality policy

Also, continue to respect the two neighbours and will improve the relationship with the third neighbours. He mentions the USA, UK, Japan, EU, India, Korea and Turkey – as examples of countries that he would pursue to strengthen the third neighbour policy. Also, his platform proposes to improve the “strategic bilateral relations” to “comprehensive bilateral relations” with the USA and Japan.

On the two neighbours, the platform proposes that S. Erdene will hold a trilateral meeting of Russia, China and Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar – and will have a balanced, flexible and pragmatic policy in dealing with the neighbours.

Some specific action items included are:
-eliminate the Schengen visa for Mongolians by 2027;
-firmly support the goal of a peaceful solution to the Korean Peninsula issue and
-becoming an exporter to the Asian transport and energy networks (roads, airways, railways, etc.).;
-will work to have the parliament approve the initiatives on open/free zone to attract international investment in technology, industry and environment;
-work to include the participation of journalists in the peacekeeping missions;
-integrate into Asian transportation routes (road, railroad and air routes);
-one window policy for Economy and Foreign Relations;
-establish a new council foreign relations promotion (Гадаад харилцааны сурталчилгааны)under the President;
-work to open branches of international organizations, such as UN-affiliated organizations on human rights and education.

U Khurelsukh: Section 2.3. A foreign policy to lead us to development.

Similar to the other two candidates, the continued relationship with the two neighbours and improve outcomes from the engagement with the third neighbour. Compared to the other two candidates, the language shows the tone that I will get it done despite the fact that President’s power is limited.

He has specific sections on the international reputation of Mongolia, UN participation, foreign investment to help development, strong Mongolian passport (increase visa-free countries twofold), health diplomacy (pandemic related policy – nothing specific), cultural diplomacy and improving the capacity of the diplomatic missions as well as the officials.

Candidates’ stand on Military issues

The president is the Chief of the General Staff of the Mongolian Armed Forces and is the head of the National Security Council (Prime Minister and Speaker are members).

The powers that the president holds as the Chief of General Staff and Armed Forces raises certain concerns as it is a big power – and incumbent president Kh. Battulga and MPP candidate U Khurelsukh – directly and indirectly, make references to use the power of the military. Regarding the Head of the National Security Council – this is a consultative body – not an executive body.

D Enkhbat: Section 2 [I] Shall be a President that protects national security and independence.

Enkhbat made references to independence, territory and borders, unity, human rights, parliamentary democracy, corruption, ethics in the national security sections. There were two paragraphs (subsections) 2.6 and 2.7 explicitly referenced defence policy and defence sector, and reference to the armed forces is that he will work to support strategic, scientific and technologically enabled resources for the armed forces. On defence, he says he will continue to support the existing policy and will intensify the reform of the sector.

S Erdene: Section 4. Defence and Section 5. National Security

Section for 4. The candidate proposes that as the Chief of the Armed Forces – will initiate “Strong and Fast Army” and within the first 100-days in the office will implement “Military Police”. He will establish the International Centre of Peacekeeping in Mongolia, through it will attract investment to establish hospital engineering, infrastructure and advanced technology. In addition create student-soldier for professions in computing, mathematics and physics – to help with the non-traditional cyber units.

Followings are activities proposed in this section as well:

  • establish a special unit (and its resources) to prevent cyber threats,
  • implement policy to a couple professional army and citizen protection,
  • improve modernize the conscripted soldiers program, and implement emergency management to military units;
  • initiate a law that creates a body that prevents (and fights) and is able to respond to non-traditional security threats (pandemic, cyber attack, disinformation)

In section 5. National Security – The DP candidate included wide compassing issues, such development/maturity of political parties, party’s financial transparency, poverty, natural resource wealth distribution, energy, nomadic animal husbandry, climate change, water issues, bio-safety and reforming of the religious institutions.

As the head of the National Security Council – he proposes three agendas that include submitting law to reform the roles and responsibilities, reform emergency structure and response through a participatory process and will prevent the President to express personal positions that concern the issues of independence and foreign policy.

Another major piece under the section is on “Corruption” – that he declares corruption as the “enemy” that threatens national security and he proposes the five initiatives.

  1. Disclosure of income sources of the senior public servants;
  2. Initiate law that voters can withdraw MPs from the parliament if they deceived voters and lost voters trust;
  3. Enable a legal environment where senior officials violate existing laws and legislation that ensures transparency;
  4. Improve the system where the political party’s financial information is public through participatory hearing, discussion and process.
  5. Educate the anti-corruption body, and create a legal environment to separate the criminal functions.

U Khurelsukh: Section 2.2.National foundational/root interests and Security 

On national security, U Khurelsukh proposed to implement  “Mongolian citizen’s security/safety”, “Economic security” and “Pharmaceutical and food security” programs.

Also, he proposes to have a “National security integrated database” – to strengthen the government’s institutional memory.

On defence, the platform has two sections, 1. Armed forces with integrated management and 2. Mongolian soldier – peacekeeping soldier. The Armed forces with integrated management section involve further reforming the legislation of the military and create integrated management for armed forces and other administrative management. The improvement of the border units/regiments and national emergency

 

Posted in Democratic Party, Judiciary, Military, Mongolia and ..., Mongolian People's Party, National Labor Party, Party Politics, Presidential 2021 | Tagged | Leave a comment

“First 100 Days In Office” from DP Program on Instagram

by Marissa J. Smith

S. Erdene, the Democratic Party candidate in the 2021 Presidential elections (just over one week away), has just (on the evening of June 1, 2021) posted excerpts from the official program on Instagram. I translate the posts below.

In summary, the proposals for candidate Erdene’s “first one hundred days in office” are draft laws. They include some that point to deficiencies in Mongolian democracy that often escape all but the most critical and close-grained analyses — that Mongolian journalists have often been subjected to libel and defamation laws, most lately with the criminalization of “dissemination of false information;” that many migrants to Ulaanbaatar are unable to access public services that they are entitled to as citizens, as they have been unable to register their residence since anti-air pollution measures came into place in 2017; and that many Mongolian lenders charge tremendously high amounts of interest as Mongolians continue to carry very high burdens of debt. A proposed draft law granting partial pension benefits on the death of a pensioner to households in cases “where the pensioner has lived with the household for a long time” also nods to the dire economic straits that many Mongolians find themselves in.

At the same time, it bears mentioning that many of the proposals are vague, and the particularly the ones aiming to increase “citizen’s participation” would be reduplicating existing legislation that has been characterized by implementation gaps.

[One of a series of posts from Эрдэнэ Содномзундуй (@erdene.sodnomzundui), June 1, 2021, translated below]

[1.]

Submit a draft law to increase civilian control over military service.

(Create a new legal environment for the establishment of a new military police force under the General Staff of the Armed Forces, which will receive civil rights and complaints and enforce military discipline.)

Цэргийн албанд иргэний хяналтыг нэмэгдүүлэх хуулийн төслийг өргөн барина.

(Зэвсэгт хүчний жанжин штабын дэргэд иргэний эрх, гомдлыг хүлээн авдаг, армийн сахилга хариуцлагыг сахиулах эрх бүхий цэргийн цагдаагийн албыг шинээр байгуулах эрх зүйн орчныг бүрдүүлэх)

[2.]

Submit an independent draft law clarifying the legal grounds in the case an elected or appointed high-ranking public official commits an ethical violation, legislating obligations to apologize to the public and for his or her  dismissal.

Сонгогдсон, томилогдсон төрийн өндөр албан тушаалтан нь ёс зүйн зөрчил гаргасан бол олон нийтээс уучлал гуйх үүргийг хуульчилж, түүнийг огцруулах, чөлөөлөх хууль эрх зүйн үндэслэлийг тодорхой болгох бие даасан хуулийн төсөл өргөн барина.

[3.]

Submit a draft law to reform the civil service access system.

(Citizens can receive public services such as civil registration, social insurance, health care, and taxes, regardless of territorial or administrative unit)

Иргэний төрийн үйлчилгээ авах тогтолцоог шинэчлэх хуулийн төслийг өргөн барина.

(Иргэн нь иргэний бүртгэл, нийгмийн даатгал, эрүүл мэнд, татвар зэрэг төрийн үйлчилгээг нутаг дэвсгэр, засаг захиргааны нэгж харгалзахгүйгээр авах)

[4.]

Submit a draft law on bag and khoroo management.

(A draft law on the equal participation of all citizens in nominating bag and khoroo governors to higher level governors and electing Citizen’s Representative Khural chairmen from the general population.)

Баг, хорооны удирдлагын талаарх хуулийн төслийг өргөн барина.

(Баг, хорооны Засаг даргыг дээд шатны Засаг даргад санал болгох, ИТХ-ын даргыг бүх иргэдийг тэгш оролцуулах үүднээс нийт иргэдээс сонгуулийн журмаар сонгох хуулийн төсөл)

[5.]

Submit a draft law to protect freedom of the press.

(Increase the guarantees of press freedom, the so-called fourth estate of a democratic society, and abolish criminal liability for exercising freedom of the press)

Хэвлэлийн эрх чөлөөг хамгаалах хуулийн төслтийг өргөн барина.

(Ардчилсан нийгмийн дөрөвдөгч засаглал гэгдэх хэвлэлийн эрх чөлөөний баталгааг дээшлүүлж, хэвлэл мэдээллийн эрх чөлөөгөө эдэлсний төлөө эрүүгийн хариуцлага хүлээлгэдэг жишгийг хална)

[6.]

The “right of citizens to ask questions” will be guaranteed, and a draft law will be submitted to each government organization to hold annual hearings on expenditure and operational reports for citizens, business entities and professionals.

“Иргэний асуулга асуух эрх”-ийг баталгаажуулж, төрийн байгууллага бүр жил бүр иргэд, салбарын ажахуйн нэгж, мэргэжилтнүүдэд хөрөнгө зарцуулалтын болон үйл ажиллагааны тайлангийн сонсгол хийдэг байх хуулийн төслийг өргөн барина.

[7.]

Draft law on collective pensions.

(With the enactment of the Collective Pension Law, which was repealed in 2017, the old-age pension will be inherited at a rate of 50-100 percent in the event of the death of a family member who has lived with [a household] for many years.)

Хамтын тэтгэврийн тухай хуулийн төсөл.

(2017 Оноос хэрэгжиж эхлэх байсан ч хүчингүй болгосон Хамтын тэтгэврийн тухай хууль хэрэгжиж эхэлснээр олон жил хамт амьдарсан гэр бүлийн гишүүдийн нэг нь нас барсан тохиолдолд өндөр насны тэтгэвэр нь 50-100 хувиар тооцож өвлөгдөн үлддэг болно.)

 

These posts are somewhat different from the exact content in the official program. The items as reproduced on Instagram are in a different order, and the program also includes:

8. Төрийн тод байдлыг сайжруулах хуулийн төсөл (Ил тод байдал, олон нийтийн хяналт нь авлигаас урьдчилан сэргийлэх хамгийн чухал хөшүүрэг гэж үзэн Шилэн дансны тухай хууль, мэдээллийн ил тод байдал, мэдээлэл авах эрхийн тухай хууль тогтоомж зөрчсөн удирдах албан,тушаалтанд эрүүгийн хариуцлага хүлээлгэх)

Draft Law on Improving State Transparency (Considering transparency and public scrutiny as the most important incentives to prevent corruption, criminalize officials who violate the Glass Account Law, information transparency, and the right to information)

9. Зээлийн хүүгийн дээд хязгаар тогтоох тухай хуулийн төсөл (мөнгө хүүлэлтийн эсрэг, харилцагчийн эрх ашгийг хамгаалах олон улсын сайн жишигт нийцүүлэх)

Draft law on setting maximum interest rates (in line with good international standards against money laundering and consumer protection)

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Untold Blogpost Episode 8: Everyone Has the Right to Learn

By Mendee Jargalsaikhan

Our guest today is Ms. Munkhzul.D, a principal of the 263rd public kindergarten in Songino Khairkhan district of the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. After graduating from the Mongolian State University of Education in 2011, this kind-hearted lady works passionately with the children. In this podcast, she shared her experience of welcoming a child with cerebral palsy – a group of disorders affecting a child’s ability to move and maintain the balance – into her kindergarten.

Welcoming a Mom and a Child with Disability

As the newly built kindergarten was preparing to open, a mother with a three-year-old boy came by and asked whether it was possible to get her child enrolled in this kindergarten. Munkhzul recalled that moment when she immediately put herself in that mom’s shoes. Since the inclusive educational environment was already legalized, the child’s residency belongs to her kindergarten’s coverage zone, and kindergarten teachers already have been taught at university how to teach children with disabilities, she decided to accept the boy. Moreover, she hired his mom as an assistant teacher because she had all the qualifications for the job. Then, through World Vision, she began to work with Doctor Narantsetseg of the Mongolian National University of Medical Science and specialists of the Development Centre for Children with Disabilities. Furthermore, she set up a support team, which consisted of classroom teacher, an assistant teacher, a kindergarten doctor, a nurse, and his mom. According to the initial assessment, the boy’s linguistic and mobility level was at the level of a two-year-old child although he was actually three years old. Since the child lives with his mom and his brother, and could not enroll in any kindergarten before, he did not have much social interactions – which is a key element to assess a child’s level of disability. Following the assessment, the support team developed a plan and worked together to help the boy.

Photo: The boy in the Rehabilitation Center for Children with Disabilities in Mongolia(with the permission of Munkhzul)

Initial Challenges

The most immediate challenge was posed by the attitudes of other parents and his classmates. Even though the disability is not an infectious disease, parents were asking why their children were studying with a disabled child and, some even wanted to change their children’s class. The principal and teachers tried to explain this to other parents, but some of them were slow to change their attitude. Classmates, as Munkhzul recalls, were first surprised of the boy’s difference, why he could not walk, and talked strangely. So, the teachers decided to show an animated movie about children with disabilities. She said watching animated movie is one of the best methods to explain things for kindergartners. After four months, his classmates’ attitudes began to change. Some wanted to help him brush his teeth, go to washroom, and get a toy. Others played with him. So, the boy began to lose his shyness through these social interactions. There were noticeable improvements in his speech. However, his mom, who works as an assistant teacher, comes early in the morning by piggybacking her child into class and leaves after everyone has left. As Munkhzul explains, she does not want to get her child hurt when someone says something bad. One time, an elderly man called her child spoiled – as his mom carried him because he cannot walk. However, the elder man did not know the boy was suffering from cerebral palsy and his mom did not want to explain.

Photo: The children of the kindergarten (with the permission of Munkhzul)

Work with and Listen to Kindergarten Teachers

In the public kindergarten, a teacher and assistant work with about 30-35 children. Despite excessive workload, kindergarten teachers are experienced to observe each child and always seek ways to help children learn. Here, particularly when working with a child with disability, the parental collaboration and feedback is most important. If a child’s disability is diagnosed as early as possible, teachers and parents can work together to help the child develop certain skills and teach how to socialize with other children. There are two types of parents, as Munkhzul explains, one is like the woman who tirelessly seeks all possible ways to work with teachers and specialists, but there are other ones who do not want to accept the fact that their child has some type of disability. And she shared her past experiences as working as a teacher. After she noticed a child could not draw properly, especially when using colours. So, she asked her mom, a well-educated lady, to have her child diagnosed by specialists along with her kindergarten doctor. But on the next day, the husband blamed her for discriminating his child and complained to the principal for mistreating his child. It took almost a year for these parents to have their child diagnosed, who then needed to have some assistive glasses. If they had followed the teacher’s suggestion a year earlier, it would have been much better for the child. Also, there are some other parents who bring their child in the beginning of the school year in September; however, they do not realize the kindergarten needs to prepare to accommodate a child with disability, because every disability is different. This would help the kindergarten staff to develop a specific training and evaluation program, which is tailored for that child. Therefore, parents should visit the kindergarten in the spring and collaborate with the kindergarten for the next school year.

Photo: Munkhzul with her colleagues (with the permission of Munkhzul)

Psychological Counselling and Early Diagnosis

According to Munkhzul’s observations, parents with disabled children experience two types of challenges. The first is to deal with the psychological and mental hardship. In most cases, men are more likely to abandon their children and mothers stay with their children. Or, even if both parents stay together, mostly mothers stay home to take care of their child with disability. Single parents with disabled kids could not work, which further leads them to be isolated from social interactions. Thus, they become more stressed and sensitive. Therefore, these parents are in greater need of counselling, coaching, and even talking with people who understand their problems and help them find ways to overcome the mental hardship. The other is to improve the early diagnosing. For example, a woman, who brought her child to Munkhzul’s kindergarten, spent almost three years trying to get a proper diagnosis. All specialists gave her a different diagnosis; as a result, she did not get social welfare benefits for taking care of her son, nor subsidies for her son’s medical services and assistive device (walking aid for a child with cerebral palsy). If the doctors had diagnosed her child properly as earlier, she would have gotten some financial assistance and her son would have received the right medical treatment and rehabilitation.

Photo: a teacher and children of the kindergarten during a class (with the permission of Munkhzul)

Impacts of COVID-19

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been tremendous on kindergarten children, as explained by our earlier guests, disabled children develop more when they are in social interactions. Despite this difficulty, Munkhzul and her teachers spent more time on professional development. For example, they had a two-day workshop with Ms Kimiko – a Japanese kindergarten teacher working in Mongolia.

The Untold podcast and blog post are made available by the generous support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Mongolia. We also want to thank our editor Riya Tikku.

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Presidential Campaign Slogans

By Marissa J. Smith and Julian Dierkes

Obviously, election campaigns are not entirely defined by campaign slogans. Nevertheless, slogans are a shorthand how candidates and parties are trying to present themselves, so we hope that a brief discussion of slogans might be of interest.

2020 parliamentary election campaign slogans

Here is a tweet tile summarizing the three presidential candidates’ slogans:

It’s a bit odd that News.mn has chosen a masked photo for Enkhbat, but not for Erdene or Khurelsukh, but that would be a different topic.

All three candidates have included “Mongol,” which may mean the country of Mongolia [Монгол Улс], the nation(ality) of Mongolians [Монгол ард түмэн], and also refer to individual Mongolian persons [Монгол хүн]. This obviously makes it an especially useful campaign term, and it was realized to great effect by Battulga.

MPP

Khurelsukh is using two slogans, #МонголУлсынТөлөөЗүтгэе and #БаялагтааЭзэнМонгол. He is also touting a program called “Шударга Ёс-Хөгжлийн Гэрээ.”

These are all terms that are probably recognizable, if not familiar, to anyone who has considered Mongolian political speech.

While both including Монгол à la Battulga, these are much longer slogans, and include formal and somewhat traditionally-coloured terms, in contrast to Battulga’s use of “winning” (which probably also referenced Trump).

The first is “Let’s strive for Mongolia,” зүтгэх being a verb that is often found in socialist as well as contemporary political speech, having the flavour of collective, but directed action (i.e., by the party or enterprise management).

The second is “Mongolia/Mongolians are the Owners of Their Wealth.” Though баялаг refers specifically to mineral resources, it is related to the abstract term for wealth or value, баян, used in many formal, ceremonial, and ritual contexts (for example, it is an element of many place names). Эзэн is a term for a political-economically effective sovereign that operates across a huge spectrum, and can refer to Chinggis Khaan (often referred to as Эзэн Чингис; “empire” is эзэн гүрэн), the head of a household or herding group (the эзэн of a ger or an ail, including herd animals), and the sovereign entity or force, sometimes represented anthropomorphically or zoomorphically, associated with parts of the landscape, particularly mountains, which must be properly respected by humans also inhabiting and extracting flora, fauna, and minerals from the landscape that “belong to” and are replenished by the эзэн. With this slogan, Khurelsukh is no doubt referencing the MPP-led government’s recent efforts to renegotiate the OT agreement and issue new TT bonds, and also the number of large industrial projects that he has been naming in his program (“The Agreement for Justice and Development”), which include oil production, natural gas pipeline(s), and steel production, and which the MPP has been loudly talking about for some time now.

DP

The DP is using #ДарангуйлалгүйМонгол as its slogan.

In the end, we settled on “Mongolia without Dictatorship” as the best translation, though Anand offered “Mongolia without Oppression” as an alternative.

Etymologically related to дарангуйлал are дарах (“to press,” as in “a button”), and даралт (“pressure,” including referring to air pressure and blood pressure). “Oppression” makes a lot of sense as a translation of “дарангуйлал.” However, “dictatorship” also carries across how дарангуйлал is specifically associated with a particular leader, be it Tsedenbal, or, as seems obvious in this case, Khurelsukh, and also Battulga. And possibly also former MP Altankhuyag, who was put forward by the second wing of the DP (which includes all 13 DP members of Parliament) but refused registration.

Again however, this language is following Battulga who ignited the language of “дарангуйлал” when he issued his ban on the MPP and accused Khurelsukh of “militarism.”

KhUN

Speaking of “igniting,” KhUN has used used novel political language in their slogan #НийгэмдээГэрэлАсаацгаая

Rather than the “state” or “nation,” they invoke “society,” and rather than pushing them to “awake” (сэргэх) and carry out a predetermined path, they use the term for “to kindle, ignite,” which stimulates associations with creativity and innovation.

KhUN has also riffed off of Battulga’s slogan with #МонголЧадна, but without bogging the slogan down with unnecessary syllables or accusatory 1 million tugrug words. Чадах is one of the first words that anyone learning the Mongolian language learns and one that forms a fundamental part of any Mongolian language user’s vocabulary, and means “to be able to.” The slogan nicely carries tones of success and achievement, without the dogwhistling implications of there being enemies or losers, as Battulga’s (and Trump’s) slogan did.

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Shifts in Voting Behaviour

By Julian Dierkes

Much of election-day exit poll analysis in Germany focuses on “Wählerwanderung”, i.e. voter migration. That requires pretty good and representative data to do, something that has never quite been possible in Mongolia. That secret poll data that political parties always seem to be operating with is also unlikely to really make this kind of analysis possible. So, I speculate on the basis of having watched many Mongolian elections. Here, I want to speculate about party allegiances, possibly adding or collaborating on another post that would look at demographic movements.

I suppose that Mongolian voters have five options:

  • Vote U Khurelsukh, nominated by MPP
  • Vote S Erdene, nominated by “DP”
  • Vote D Enkhbat, nominated by Зөв хүн электорат coalition
  • Cast a blank ballot, i.e. don’t mark any of the candidates
  • Don’t vote

Committed Party Supporters

As in any election, political parties will count on some portion of the electorate who are committed party supporters and will vote for a party nominee regardless of who that is.

But there are actually some complicated questions even around this committed core of party support for this election.

MPP

Here, the picture seems clearest. The MPP has around 220,000 members and there is no obvious reason to think that the vast majority of these members will not be actively supporting Khurelsuhk as the MPP candidate.

Yes, there are factions in the MPP (note for example the relative demise of the City faction that supported 2017 presidential candidate M Enkhbold whose support within the MPP was not enthusiastic four years ago), but it seems like Khurelsukh has been fairly firmly in charge of the party through his terms as prime minister and especially his big win in last year’s parliamentary election. But M Enkhbold is not the only example of less-than-enthusiastic MPP support. The most glaring example (certainly in his own mind) was N Enkhbayar in 2009 who felt so betrayed by the party that he spun off his own party. The MPRP seems to have re-united with the MPP for now, but…

MPRP

In some ways MPRP voters have seemed the most fiercely loyal in the past decade, following N Enkhbayar through his trial, conviction and various combinations of candidates. Now, the MPRP seems to have re-merged into the MPP. Should we expect MPRP stalwarts to follow this merger and vote for Khurelsukh?

My guess is that the vast majority of committed MPRP members (just over 30,000) will vote for Khurelsukh. Somewhat oddly (to me), Enkhbayar does seem to have a very loyal following and this re-merger seems to have his blessings. I suspect that Khurelsukh is also a relatively attractive candidate for many MPRP supporters. With his Khentii connections and power base he seems country-side rooted. He is also portraying himself as a bit of a traditionalist.

And here, the obligatory mounted photo:

The twist? S Ganbaatar as the MPRP’s candidate in 2017 received significantly more than then MPRP’s committed core’s votes, his 30.6% nearly equalling M Enkhbold’s share in the first round in 2017. In 2020, Та бидний эвсэл (Our Coalition that MPRP participated in) won 8% of the national vote. Assuming that this also included some swing voters, the overall potential of committed MPRP voters might thus be on the order of 70,000 or so (5% of the 1,475k voters who participated in the 2020 election).

As an aside, note that the Our Coalition included the Civil Will Green Party, the very party that D Enkhbat represented in the 2008-12 parliament.

So, Ganbaatar massively outperformed and was largely supported by non-committed MPRP voters.

Ganbaatar Voters

What will happen to these Ganbaatar voters? The motivation to support Ganbaatar was probably four-fold: MPRP support, anti-MPP desire to balance political forces, personal support for Ganbaatar, frustration with Enkhbold and Battulga as options. On MPRP support, see above, a small portion of the electorate. On personal support for Ganbaatar, while this seemed to be common among Ulaanbaatar taxi drivers…

I probably never quite understood his appeal, but Ganbaatar has now been a member/figure in all four parties currently in parliament. Not a whole lot of political credibility there. I haven’t noticed that he’s actually endorsed S Erdene as a candidate, but I doubt that there is much loyalty among his erstwhile 2017 voters that would “follow” him to support Erdene.

That desire to counter-balance an MPP-dominated parliament with a president from another party will be one of the main dynamics in this election. To the extent that this also motivated many of Ganbaatar’s voters, these votes will almost certainly not migrate to the MPP but instead have to choose between Erdene and Enkhbat to make themselves heard.

The overall frustration with the lack of choices may be significantly lower this time. Khurelsukh is probably a less unattractive candidate than M Enkhbold was, though Erdene seems no more attractive than Kh Battulga was. On the other hand, Enkhbat does represent a genuine alternative given his nomination by KhUN and his own political trajectory.

DP

The DP has been in a very unhealthy spiral for some years now. The embarrassing spectacle around the control of the party seal is only the most recent manifestation of that unhealthy spiral. Longtime leaders like Lu Bold spinning off in 2020 or strange new recruits like S Ganbaatar joining (see above) are not a sign of personnel renewal, but a lack of focus and identity. And, in the meantime, the party remains dominated by the “golden sparrows” of original democracy activists who were young in 1990, but are no longer young nor fresh in 2021.

There are too many factions in the DP for me to really try to attempt to assign Battulga supporters to Erdene, or not, so my best guess would be to think that a significantly smaller portion of the roughly 150,000 DP members will be DP voters than the portion of MPP voters that will support Khurelsukh.

Yet, the DP remains the main contended and even a relatively unattractive candidate like Battulga managed to parlay that rival-to-the-MPP status into a successful election run in 2017. As unattractive a candidate as Erdene seems, I did underestimate that anyone-but-MPP potential in 2017 and thus assume that Erdene might yet collect a largely portion of that potential. If we think of Ganbaatar + Battulga vote shares in 2017 then that was nearly 70% of voters in the first round in 2017! Disregarding voter demographics and assuming some stable voter behaviour (counter the very thrust of this blog post) that would imply that Khurelsukh would have to win the support of roughly 1/3 of the voters who supported non-Enkhbold choices in 2017. That seems like a tall order, even for a relatively more attractive candidate.

KhUN

The National Labour Party does not really have a stable support base. It garnered just over 200,000 (5%) in the 2020 parliamentary election. Some of those voters may have supported specific KhUN candidates in the parliamentary election, but it seems reasonable to assume that most of them would also support Enkhbat as a candidate given how widespread support for him within KhUN seems to be.

Blank Ballot

What about the “white voters”? In the second round of the 2017 election, 8% of voters who turned out did not mark their ballot presumably registering their protest against the choice between Enkhbold and Battulga. That’s almost 100,000 voters. While some of them might have been within-party opposition to the two candidates, it seems fair to assume that the vast majority of these voters will support Enkhbat in part because their effort in actually casting a blank suggests that they are committed voters and will turn out again. I don’t quite see a rationale for casting a blank ballot in an election where Enkhbat does seem to represent a genuine alternative.

The numbers of white ballots might increase significantly if Khurelsukh and Erdene face off in a second round, a situation that would be similar to 2017 and does not seem impossible. For a second round, all kinds of allegiances would shift around in any case.

Non-Voters

And then there are the 31.5% (first round) and 39.5% (second round) of voters who did not vote in 2017 or the 26.5% who did not vote in 2020. I do not have evidence nor a strong intuition of the percentage of those who are committed non-voters, i.e. those who are very unlikely to vote in this year’s election. Presumably, these are the politically disenchanted or those for whom travel to a polling station is too inconvenient. Perhaps also some of the infirm who do not request a mobile ballot box. For those non-voters who see voting is too much of a burden, it seems unlikely that this year’s election will be different. Will one of the three candidates somehow rouse the disenchanted out of their political passivity to cast a ballot? That does not seem likely for Khurelsukh or Erdene with the possible exception of some regional support. Enkhbat? Well, if his campaign develops some momentum and makes a credible claim at a “different kind of politics”, perhaps. But in the end, it might be easier to persuade some swing voters to support Enkhbat, than to lure non-voters out of their gers.

Conclusions

Any predictions that come out of this consideration of possible voter migration? Well, even though Khurelsukh seems the obvious favourite in this election, I did make myself think about the over 900,000 voters who voted against Enkhbold in the first round in 2017 and how many of those voters Khurelsukh would have to persuade to support him to reach a majority in the first round.

And, Enkhbat has a steep hill to clime with his “start” of only the voters who cast a blank ballot as a likely committed voter base.

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