Mongolia – Without Vodka, Cheers With Milk

By Mendee J

Having lived through a two-decade democratic transition, people now recognize behaviours of politicians and distinguish the false promises from the practical ones.  Therefore, it is also becoming difficult for political entrepreneurs to find something achievable in highly competitive political environment.  But, they are always good in engaging in the “blame game”.

One successful and touching initiative is the fight against the vodka, a drink inherited from the Soviet past that has dominated Mongolia during the economic transition of the 1990s because the only successful light industry and business was the distilling business and vodka was included in the family ratio.  President Elbegdorj proposed a toast with milk in the New Year’s eve (December, 2010) live to the country and initiated the Vodka Free Mongolia campaign.  He asked Province Governors not to serve vodka in any activities where he is present and encouraged the public to join in the campaigns.  Now people are beginning to embrace the “Vodka Free Wedding”, “Vodka Free Graduation Ceremonies”, “Vodka Free Women’s Day Celebration of March 8”.  This campaign has received support from the public and seems to be gaining momentum.

Although this might be linked to political ambition, an influential Member of Parliament, “Jenko” Battulga, has pushed a draft bill to prohibit alcohol and cigarette manufacturers and people connected with drug (narcotics)-related crimes from running in parliamentary elections.  He submitted his draft for the third time for consideration of the parliament.

These are the most practical initiatives to reduce the impact of vodka on Mongolian society.  According to the Police Department statistics, about 70 percent of crimes were perpetrated by unemployed people and 20-30 percent involved intoxication (Reports of the General Police Department of Mongolia).

The military has been successful in strengthening anti-alcohol policies; for instance, any alcohol-related incident during deployment will now result in discharge or severe demotion.  Now these initiatives need to be endorsed by the government and reflected in the legislation rather being used/perceived as political legacies of Elbegdorj or Battulga.  Can the state prohibit the parliament and government to use taxpayers’ dollars to procure and to serve alcohol?  The State of Alaska has done it, why not Mongolia – public officials can pay for their alcoholic treat from their own pocket if needed, but not from ours.  Then, Mongolia can present its official disconnect  from the detrimental Soviet practice – shine as an example for many others.

About mendee

Jargalsaikhan Mendee is a Deputy Director of the Institute for Defense Studies of Mongolia. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of British Columbia, and MAs in International Relations from the US Naval Postgraduate School and in Asia-Pacific Policy Studies from the Institute of Asian Research of the University of British Columbia.
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2 Responses to Mongolia – Without Vodka, Cheers With Milk

  1. Sas Carey says:

    This is hopeful. Starting at the top to change the cultural behavior. Thank you for your blog. It is very informative.

  2. jay says:

    It is a really good move hope President Elbegdorj can bring peace and development to the country.

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