Mongolians abroad voted for the first time since 1990. After the democratic revolution, Mongolians began to enjoy their freedom to choose places abroad to live, work, and study without any party guidance and surveillance. Mongolian communities have established themselves in Europe (particularly, Germany, the UK, and France), Asia (South Korea and Japan), and North America (the US and Canada) – where Mongolians were not allowed to visit during the Cold War. The 2010 Census counted 107 140 Mongolians living abroad and many of them work to support their families in Mongolia. Despite this economic link, which also contributes to the national economy through remittances especially at times of economic hardships, diaspora communities have never enjoyed the right to vote.
Out of 80 000 eligible voters, 4 320 registered for the election, and 2 779 participated in the first diaspora voting on 10 June 2012. According to the General Election Commission, these votes will be counted on the Election Day, June 28, 2012. There were no irregularities reported and Mongolian Embassies and Consular Offices organized elections.
There are some concerns about diaspora voting. The foremost is insufficient turn-out for registration and voting, but there are several understandable causes. First, the decision about diaspora voting was made in December 2011 – causing financial and administrative hurdles in the organization of the vote.
Because these plans were not reflected in annual budgetary process, there were no additions funds for embassies and consular offices to reach out to Mongolians in their area of responsibilities. The joint administrative regulations of the Foreign Ministry and General Election Committee came out in April after much consultations.
Another concern is people’s civic will to participate in the election, which probably requires more careful study and polling. Finally, geographic, financial, and work-related matters easily discouraged voters who were required to vote in person at an embassy or consular office.
But, if we see this in an optimistic way, Mongolians are learning and improving democratic governance. Hopefully, the process around the diaspora vote was indeed a good lesson for parliamentarians who approved the law without much thinking about logistics, bureaucrats at the General Election Commission and Foreign Ministry, diplomats at the embassies who organized jointly, and voters who gained their political rights. Now the question is how to improve this in a transparent and accountable way. This time Mongolians abroad only voted for political parties (they only participated in the proportional voting part), but they were not allowed to participate in the majoritarian part, where voters elect MPs for their ridings. partWould the next attempt include over 1 000 military personnel serving in hot spots? Could online voting be a solution? Then, Mongolia can offer this lesson for others.
Relatedly, the protection of Mongolian nationals abroad is declared one of the key national security concerns in the revised National Security Concept and is also highlighted in the Foreign Policy Concept in 2011. In the last few years, the public is increasingly pushing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its diplomatic posts to protect rights of Mongolian nationals abroad. (during the tsunami, Mongolia evacuated its citizens from Japan by organizing several flights from Japan). Similarly, the embassies are increasingly playing noticeable roles during crisis abroad.