As I am about to leave for Ulaanbaatar, I’m thinking about what sort of things I’ll be looking for in following the campaign in the city, and hopefully a little bit in the countryside as well.
I have previously written that the on-going Enkhbayar saga may promote a more public and frank discussion of corruption in this campaign. Since many Mongolians seem to think of most incumbents as being variously corrupt, particularly members of parliament, I do not necessarily expect these incumbents to voluntarily take on the topic in their campaign events. To the extent that such events allow for some direct interaction with voters, I do expect individual voters to raise this issue in questions.
However, most campaigning that I saw for the 2008 parliamentary election was relatively passive as far as individual voters were concerned with party-organized rallies much more common than direct interaction between candidates and citizens.
Among the parties, I imagine that Civil Will-Green Party is the most likely to emphasize corruption or, perhaps more accurately, anti-corruption. One of my questions in visiting CWGP events will therefore be how central anti-corruption will be to their campaign. Clearly, their campaign will be different from 2008 in that proportional representation offers them a much better chance at significant representation in parliament, beyond their current two members, even though one of these MPs, Enkhbat, has chosen not to run again. If anti-corruption does play a central role in the CWGP campaign, then I will interpret their result as a proxy for the extent to which corruption has become a topic of major concern for voters.
What about the MPRP? I imagine that their electoral support would be split into two categories. On the one hand, traditionalists, particularly in the countryside who will go with the true-and-tested MPRP brand “because they always have”. On the other hand, the MPRP also has some potential to garner support of protest voters and those who are looking for a more forceful voice for populist concerns especially regarding the distribution of revenues derived from the mining boom. I don’t think that the MPRP has much ideological credibility rooted in the original MPRP’s state-socialist past when it comes to redistribution of wealth, especially since Enkhbayar’s corruption trial is unlikely to portray him as a poor fighter for common Mongolians. However, partly because of the perceived (and irregular in some aspects) persecution of Enkhbayar, the MPRP might well emerge as a bit of an anti-big-party vote. In MPRP campaign activities I am therefore looking for populist appeals aimed at the MPP and DP, as well as a relatively unrealistic and simplistic stance vis-a-vis mining revenues. If these turn out to be prominent themes for the MPRP, I will interpret their vote share as a bit of an indication of the rise/decline/fate of populism.
What about voter participation? This has steadily declined from 95% (1992) to 76% (2008). This trend may continue, though perhaps the simpler voting format (unlike the multi-member multi-vote set-up in 2008) and the information efforts of the General Election Commission may make voters’ options clear enough that no one would stay away because of a lack of understanding.
It is still a little unclear (perhaps only to me) how the new biometric identification cards will have an impact on turnout. One of the challenges in 2008 and also in the presidential election in 2009 was voters who had moved, but failed to register their move with the authorities. I am not sure whether the identification cards will make it easier for local officials to let cases like that vote and thus raise the turn-out. Given these factors, I would expect turnout in the 70s% with the low 70s suggested some disappointment in democratic governance, perhaps, while the high 70s suggesting a more engaged electorate.
In its June 14 Politbarometer, Sant Maral reported that 82% of Mongolians expressed their intention to vote. That would be a terrific turnout, of course.