Julian and I have just returned from the Democratic Party Rally in Yarmag, Han-Uul District where the party’s two Parliamentary candidates L. Bold and Ts. Oyungerel as well as E. Bat-Uul, running for UB Parliament, made speeches in support of the party and their campaigns. The rally provided interesting insights into the last couple days of campaigning.
My general sense was that even after 20 years on the Mongolian political scene, the DP still uses its status as the “new guys in town” to draw distinctions between itself and the MPP. They still seem to see themselves as the new and distinctly modern party. Directly related to this “newness” was reference to the DP as corruption-free, fighting for a corruption-free Ulaanbaatar and country. Also tied to this so-called modernity is the clear reference to Western-style democracies, namely the United States of America. During the introductions of Bold and Oyungerel, the announcer made particular mention of their US education as a sign of their legitimacy to lead. Furthermore, L. Bold himself made a bold statement by telling the audience that Mongolia had two choices in this important intersection in its political and economic development: 1) the Chinese path; 2) the American path. This was in reference not only to the country’s economic development model, but also to human rights and liberty. The DP is promising a “Mongolian Dream” (paralleling the “American Dream”) whereby the people have the ability to achieve their wants, needs, and aspirations. The central DP central slogan comes to life when the speakers proclaimed that Mongolians want to “live like a (real) person and develop like a (real) country” (Хүн шиг амьдрмаар байна, Улс шиг хөгжимөөр байна!). The people’s thoughts and ideas are the party’s thoughts/ideas, and their dreams are the DP’s dreams, or so we were told.
Surprisingly, both the rally and the general meet-and-greet that preceded it brought up a topic that I not previously considered a pressing political issue: land rights. This surprisingly hot-button issue may mark a key distinction between the MPP and DP. The MPP seems to be more interested in working as quickly as possible to re-organize and in some cases replace the ger districts as well the quickly developing regions near Zaisan Monument (Зайсан Цогцолбор). The DP is running on a platform of protecting individual land rights and even extending rights to ger district citizens so as to allow a market driven resolution that benefits as many people as possible without the state forcing anyone’s hand. Admittedly, this is not an issue that I have any experience in, and I did not expect this issue to come up since it has not made it into any of the elections materials that I have seen. Clearly, it is an area for further thought, and perhaps further blog posts.
The proceedings of the rally where rather standard, with the obligatory cheers and whistling, politicians followed by such cultural icons as actor Amaraa and a rather amusing character in a bright orange deel. Held near the airport, both Julian Dierkes and myself where delighted by the clean air full of the uniquely characteristic smell of the Mongolian countryside. The rally was attended by approximately 500 people, presumably mostly from the ger district across the street. Interestingly enough, the event included a parachuter and concluded with a full on fireworks show. These seemed rather poorly planned and distracted from the candidates themselves, but the crowd seemed to enjoy it anyways. All in all, a seemingly successful rally that proved very informative on DP strategy.