The politics of Mongolia never gets boring like totalitarian or authoritarian regimes, where foreign investments are honored as long as the ruler or collective leadership are in place. The world is happy unless these regimes threaten the interests of major powers. But, the majority of citizens in these repressive regimes suffer.
The current political development in Mongolia causes headaches to many: Mongolians fear from prevalence of corruption and struggle of interest groups, foreigners are concerned about the security of their investment in this little-known country, and Mongolian politicians care about their legacies. Everyone’s concern leads to different interpretations and behaviors.
The arrest of former president Enkhbayar, a score of provincial governors, and officials of the Mongolian Minerals Authority raise hopes for the ability of the Anti-Corruption Agency to eradicate corruption because a majority of the Mongolian population have suffered and lost their hopes in fancy “good governance” initiatives. Although people respected the third president, some start questioning in his strange behaviors and statements which recently released to the public. People wonder why a former President, Prime Minister, and Chairman of the Ikh Khural does not show any respect for the law, which he passed, executed. Many politicians, MP Bat-Uul, Gundalai, former MP Khurelsukh and others in the casino case, obeyed the law and did not protest against it.
The former president’s trial is scheduled to open next Thursday (May 24). Mongolians seem to be hesitant to express opinions on whether Enkhbayar is guilty or not because all want to defer to the trial. This is a very good sign, it shows confidence and trust in the rule of law. If Enkhbayar discloses wrongdoings of others, that is also helpful to clean the government of “bad” folks.
Enkhbayar tweeted on May 21 “Монгол хүний саруул ухаанд би итгэдэг.” (“I believe in the wisdom of Mongolians.”) This is a phrase attributed to S Zorig, one of the leaders of the democratic revolution in the early 1990s who was murdered under very unclear circumstances later that decade.
According to Mongolian news media, Enkhbayar’s trial is scheduled on 24 May 2012 in Ulaanbaatar. As explained in the recent press statement of the Mongolian Independent Authority Against Corruption, he will be tried on three allegations: misuse of capital city property “Urguu Hotel” for a personal gain, misuse of Capital City property “Printing House” for personal gain using unlawful privatization, and misuse of a gift addressed to Mongolian Buddhist for personal gain. Enkhbayar is still hospitalized and recovering from his hunger strike – his health condition may prevent him to attend the trial according to his lawyer.
The latest arrest of the former Chief of the Mongolian Minerals Authority brings more hope to dig into “the most corrupted government sector” according to various studies (for example, USAID study, 2005). Subpoenas for some junior officials were also issued last week. Obviously, these will scare many foreign investors – if licenses were issued in questionable ways. In the last several days, Mongolia has appeared in most major global media, including the BBC, Economist, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. Non-resident foreign journalists treated the case rather strangely and made unconvincing one-sided allegations, likely following the distribution of a seemingly pre-prepared PR package by Enkhbayar’s family and supporters.
Mongolian people are aware of the lingering competition among domestic interest groups – investigations of corruption cases are seemingly one-sided. But, one cannot rule out the logic of political entrepreneurs. Mongolian politicians are competing to score high and to create their own legacies. To distinguish oneself from populist politics and increase one’s positive political image, politicians and parties need to achieve something visible – “win the hearts and minds of people”. Today, the only thing they could score more is the fight against corruption. That’s why the current Mongolian president is attempting to score on corruption and reform of the judiciary, the parliament approved the Law on Conflict of Interests, and most politicians remain silent on alleged corruption cases. Only the drive for positive legacy generate political will – which require many politicians keep a delicate balance. Ignorance of the “rule of law” and “populist lies” will now cost their political posts and legacies. Only Mongolians will suffer if Mongolia becomes a safe haven for corruption.