Here are some speculative musings from around the international ger stove…
When the MPRP was deciding on whether to run a candidate in the election some weeks ago, there was a fair bit of speculation that this decision was a calculated one to extract concessions from either the DP or MPP in return for not running a candidate. This is what happened with the MNDP which first announced that it would run a candidate but then endorsed Elbegdorj. One might imagine that the DP offered concessions in cabinet or parliament.
However, the MPRP was unable to strike a deal at the time and nominated N Udval.
Now, there is some talk that perhaps Udval might not really carry through with her candidacy.
How Udval Might Withdraw
It’s still unclear to me what that means as a formal withdrawal is expressly prohibited by the election law (27.8), but I imagine that there could be some announcement of, “Oh, we’ve changed our mind, now we’re endorsing Elebgdorj/Bat-Erdene” from the MPRP. Udval would still appear on the ballot and probably receive some votes, but would not continue to contest the election.
Why Udval Might Withdraw
Such a withdrawal clearly only makes sense if the MPRP is able to strike a bargain with either the DP or the MPP.
Bargaining with the MPP
As the MPP is in disarray and out of power, the MPP currently has relatively little to offer, unless the MPRP was bargaining under the assumption that an MPRP endorsement for Bat-Erdene would be very likely to produce a Bat-Erdene election victory. If this were to come about, the victory will have hinged on the MPRP endorsement and concessions might be substantial.
Clearly, some kind of pardon for Enkhbayar is in the mix of discussions here.
However, as the president does appoint officials to a number of functions, especially in foreign policy and the judiciary, a significant number of positions could be at stake as well. Presumably, securing the presidency would offer a lot of potential appointments for the MPRP.
The longer term potential offer could also be some kind of re-merger of the MPP/MPRP with an eye toward the 2016 parliamentary election, though probably not much sooner as such a re-merger would imply either a grand coalition in parliament joined by the MPP or an awkward continuation of the current coalition despite a party realignment.
What would be the downside to the MPRP? Only the cabinet complications if Bat-Erdene wins. If Elbegdorj still wins despite an MPRP endorsement for Bat-Erdene, the DP would obviously be very displeased with the MPRP. That might mean no pardon for Enkhbayar (which Elbegdorj may be contemplating in any case, independent of any negotiations with the MPRP), and marginalization in cabinet, though the DP can’t really kick the MPRP out of the coalition.
Bargaining with the DP
The DP could obviously offer an Enkhbayar pardon (if that is not already a done deal). Beyond that most likely concessions would have to do with presidential appointments (as in the above scenario with the MPP), and possibly some realignment in cabinet.
By initially running Udval as a candidate, the MPRP would also have laid the groundwork to emphasize its independence for the 2016 Ikh Khural election, though that seems far off and whether voters will still remember this act of seeming defiance is unclear.
Concessions from the DP would also very much depend on Elbegdorj’s perception of his campaign chances. If he feels pretty confident, why offer any concessions to the MPRP and why not take his chances with voters? In a run-off, his chances would probably still be good, even if the MPRP were to endorse Bat-Erdene in this run-off. So if Elbegdorj is happy with his chances, he would seem unlikely to offer concessions.
This is especially true as Elbegdorj may not have much to offer in terms of concessions in parliament. While the DP appears to be united behind Elbegdorj, that might not mean that he has a lot of power to persuade other parts of the party, especially the parliamentary factions, to offer concessions on his behalf.
This speculation is further complicated by the on-going whispers about a post-election replacement of Altankhuyag as PM either in a negotiated fashion or through a party revolt. Given the precarity of the current cabinet arrangement, why would another faction leader saddle himself with a strengthened MPRP in cabinet just to support the president?
Another scenario would be that anyone who is scheming to replace Altankhuyag may try to secure the support of the MPRP in this scheme. In such a scenario this schemer might well be happy to offer concessions in a package for an Udval withdrawal & support for a run on the prime minister.
If Elbegdorj is worried about his campaign, of course, then concessions to the MPRP become much more likely.
There is also an interpretation of the rumours about an Udval withdrawal that looks at her nomination as a miscalculation on part of the MPRP, namely that such a nomination would extract concessions, but in the end neither DP or MPP has bitten on that bait.
There may be some realization within the MPRP that Udval as a surrogate Enkhbayar may not be a very strong candidate, that concessions are not forthcoming and that some kind of withdrawal is thus a way to avoid an embarrassing showing in the election.
In the above, I’ve tried to think through some of the political logic of various scenarios after running these thoughts by some trusted fellow observers of the political scene. I’m not (yet) in Mongolia to be able to pick up direct political vibes and thus can’t offer an assessment of the likelihood of any of these scenarios unfolding, but though that these discussions were worth sharing to offer more of an understanding of the current political dynamics.