June 28, 2012 could be a decisive moment for Mongolian democracy. One of the important factors that enabled Mongolia’s successful democratization compared to some of its post-socialist peers is the trustworthiness of the election results. However, as we all know well, this essential element of a stable democratic system is increasingly being questioned.
This was most vividly manifested by the July 1st riots that erupted against the MPRP, which allegedly influenced the election result in 2008. During the July 1st riot five people were killed by police and hundreds were injured during the clash between civilians and police. Last month four high-level police officials who commanded police during the state of emergency were arrested under the accusation of the abuse of power. Whether the 2012 election will increase the trustworthiness of elections or lead to a vicious circle of political instability is a crucial challenge ahead.
After a series of political negotiation (between the MPP and the DP) and court battles (the Ikh Khural vs. the Constitutional Court), the 2012 Ikh Khural election is set to be organized by a mixed election system. 48 of the total 76 Ikh Khural members will be elected through the single-district, single-winner system or multi-member district majoritarian system. The remaining 28 members will be elected by the party list system. So, ballots will have two sections.
First, there will be the names of candidates who will be competing in a electoral district. Second, the names of political parties will be listed by the order of the year of foundation. So there will be two types of MPs elected through two different systems and there will be no connection between the two systems. The Constitutional Court vetoed the article on ‘slipping’ in the Election Law of the Ikh Khural on May 2, 2012. ‘Slipping’ allowed candidates who were defeated, but received more than 28 percent of votes in their electoral districts to be included in the pool of candidates who are in the party list. These candidates would be ranked along with the candidates who are named in the party-list. But, according to the court, this a rather unfair “double opportunity” for some candidates was cancelled.
This week, 11 political parties and two coalitions submitted their platforms for the 2012 election to the Department of National Audit.
The Ulaanbaatar City Khural will use the same mixed election system. 15 of the total 45 Khural members will be elected through the party-list system and 30 seats will be taken by the winners in the single-member districts. This inclusion of the proportional system was a result of recent talks between the MPP and the DP.
While the rules of election have been finally set up, there is a question mark on the organization of election. First, there is much doubt about the reliability of the electronic ballot counting machines that will be used for the first time in this election. The technical reliability and security concerns regarding counting machines are key issues. Secondly, the Government of Mongolia failed to implement a program for digital national identification cards, which was expected to overcome the potential for election fraud.
There has been some significant gap in the estimation of the number of registered voters in Mongolia. One of the accusations against the MPP after the 2008 elections was that it used its control of civil registration to illegally increase the number of pro-MPP voters. Even though voters can check online whether their names are in the official registration of voters, the alleged fraud related to the voter registration often happened in rural provinces. Furthermore, the composition of the central election committee and local committees were always dominated by the members of the MPP and the DP. The equal inclusion of people representing different political and civil organizations should be taken seriously, as well. The role of local and foreign election observers is expected to be equally important, but it depends on the extent to which they are exposed to the details of the process of election. I expect that more foreign election observers will come to Mongolia this year and they will focus more on rural electoral districts than on Ulaanbaatar.
There is a lot at stake in the 2012 elections. The most important of which is how fair the elections are going to be organized so that it will support democratic legitimacy and stability in Mongolia.