Politics Heating up Ahead of Election?

It does seem like (political) things in Mongolia have been getting more exciting over the past week. Clearly this is linked to the proximity of the beginning of the election campaign.

By the changes to the electoral law that were enacted in December, the parliamentary election is due to be held on June 20 or 27. That would suggest a beginning of the official campaign on May 31 or June 6. However, some of the changes initiated by the changes to the electoral law are still under judicial review. Also, the goal to hold local elections on the same day as national elections (primarily to reduce administrative costs significantly) is threatened by inter-party squabbling. If any of the changes to the electoral law are struck down, by default the election would be run under the previous election system. Recall that this was a bit of a mess of multi-member, multi-vote districts that proved to be difficult to count and also a challenged for voters and parties to wrap their head around.

While the exact nature of the campaign and election procedures remains to be determined, a number of political events suggest that the atmosphere is heating up a bit.

Late last week, frm. prime minister, speaker of the Ikh Khural, and president Enkhbayar was arrested for failing to appear before an inquiry of the Anti-Corruption Agency. Recall that he has been the first very prominent politician to appear in the trial of four senior police officers for the July 1 (2008) riots that followed closely on the last parliamentary election. Recall also that Enkhbayar lost the 2009 presidential election to current incumbent Elbegdorj, but Enkhbayar certainly felt like he was abandoned by his then-party, the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, since re-named Mongolian People’s Party by Prime Minister Batbold, but re-formed as a splinter party with its original name by Enkhbayar. In his trial appearance and other public statements, Enkhbayar is increasingly slinging mud in all directions, focused on July 1, corruption, and some of his political rivals. Now, he’s being detained and looks to remain in detention for the remainder of the week at least.

Some protests have occurred regarding his detention, but the numbers of people involved in these protests continues to be relatively low.

As if domestic politics wasn’t exciting enough, the Mineral Resources Authority (MRAM) held a press conference announcing the suspension of South Gobi Resources’ mining license. It had been surprisingly quiet after the announcement of a takeover of South Gobi by Chinese aluminum giant CHALCO, so perhaps this reaction was to be expected. Predictably, this press conference sent various share prices tumbling and produced angry statements from various foreign investors.

About Julian Dierkes

Julian Dierkes is a sociologist by training (PhD Princeton Univ) and a Mongolist by choice and passion since around 2005. He teaches in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He toots @jdierkes@sciences.social and tweets @jdierkes
This entry was posted in Corruption, Elections, Ikh Khural 2012, JD Democratization, Mining, Party Politics, Politics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Politics Heating up Ahead of Election?

  1. Ricky says:

    Hi, it feel so amazing to finally see some insightful information about Mongolia in English.

    As I learnt before about MR. Enkhbayar, he was obviously a popular man to become the single person who’s ever been elected for three prominent positions. He led the transformation of his party from an infamous communist party to a democratic one, and he put a lot of effort on building infrastructures and credit for settling down the debt problem with Russia should also be given to him. Why is so few people standing up for him right now? How did he lose support from voters? How deeply is he involved with the 2008 riot?

    Could you please tell me what is really going on behind this arrest?

    Thank you very much!


    • Ricky,
      thank you for your comment. Enkhbayar is not unusual in having won election to multiple positions. Current President Elbegdorj, for example, also is a previous prime minister and a number of other currently active politicians have occupied various high offices previously.

      Enkhbayar is certainly formally tied to the July 1 riots in that he was serving as president at the time. So far, the only criminal proceedings are those against high-ranking police officials who were involved at an operational level. In testifying at their trial, Enkhbayar has certainly made an explicit attempt to implicate various political rivals to have been much more closely associated with decision-making about the response to the riot than he was.

      What’s really going on behind this arrest? I’m not sure any of the central players involved in this case could tell you that. However, Enkhbayar is head of the re-formed, but unreformed MPRP and is preparing an election campaign that could take some seats away from the MPP, most likely, but perhaps also from the DP. It doesn’t take a very conspiratorial mind to make a link between the looming campaign and the timing of the arrest.

      On the other hand, the Anti-Corruption Agency has recently gained more authority and they might argue that their decisions are apolitical and dictated by investigations.

      An answer to your question about what’s really going on is therefore probably one that emphasizes a multiplicity of factors.

  2. Ricky says:

    Thank you very much for your quick reply.

    I’ve been reading a lot from this blog since last night, and I think I’m getting more ideas about this neighbouring country. I’m a Uighur from China, though now studying in Australia. I guess that’s why, as someone who’s been longing for democracy for life, when I first read about his democratic reform to MPRP and privatisation during his leadership in government, I immediately thought of him as a heroic figure. What is his contribution to democracy in Mongolia? What makes him popular/unpopular among mongolian people?

    Sorry to bother you with these somehow naive questions, but I just really want to grab this chance of learning something from an expert.

    Thank you for your time.


  3. Ricky says:

    Yeah, I guess that’s why Economist described him as hardly charismatic.

    I will refer to the paper you recommended. Thank you again for your patient advice.


  4. Marissa Smith says:

    My sense, from reading news and a few conversations, is that many people in Mongolia suspect that Enkhbayar’s arrest is a pre-election show, perhaps arranged by Enkhbayar and his party to cast a martyr image. It seems that he may still be more popular with “herders.” I’m not hearing too much talk about it though in Erdenet. Staying tuned though!

  5. Nico says:

    Great to see a site with real info about Mongolia, since a lot in the net is justrumors, half-truth and PR.

    I have a practical question about the elections:
    I’m wondering how the election process is done practically. How do the people who are scattered over large areas in the countryside vote?

    Many thanks

    • The election law specifies a maximum distance that a voter would have to travel to reach a voting station. If I recall correctly, this distance in the 2009 presidential election was 70km. For that election, I was serving as an election monitor and spent most of the day driving through rural areas in Zavkhan province surrounding its capital of Uliastai.

      One of the wonderful parts of that experience would be exactly what you’re asking about, i.e. remote polling stations. Local authorities frequently rent a ger just for this purpose to be able to set up at a strategically placed site.

      Some voters arrived in groups of men or women, suggesting that perhaps the family members of the opposite sex were staying behind to watch over animals and would then take their turn upon the return of the first group.

      When votes had been counted, some election officers had to ride by horse to a location where they would have a mobile phone connection to be able to report the results to a central election office.

      Seeing some of these remote polling stations, the dedication of officials that manned them, and the festive mood in which voters arrived from large distances, was a real democratic inspiration.

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