It appears that the MPRP is pressing on with the nomination of Health Minister N Udval for the presidential election.
There had been some doubts about the sincerity of the nomination and speculation that the MPRP was merely trying to use the nomination as a bargaining chip with the DP and MPP, just as Enkhsaikhan had earlier in the month. While the official announcement from the General Election Commission won’t come until May 23, it now looks likely that the announcement will point to three candidates, Ts Elbegdorj (DP), B Bat-Erdene (MPP) and Udval (MPRP)
Significance of Udval Candidacy in Campaign and Election
While this is very significant in that Udval will be the first woman to run for president, what does her candidacy imply for the election?
The most likely impact may be that it will make the necessity of a run-off election between the top two candidates very probable.
Why? If past election results offer any guidance, Elbegdorj and Bat-Erdene are likely to be close in the votes that they will garner. There’s nothing about either candidate that suggests at this point that this will be otherwise in this election.
In 2009, for example, Elbegdorj won with just over 51% of the votes against N Enkhbayar in an election where Enkhbayar clearly didn’t have the full support of the then-MPRP. The current scenario is similar in that Bat-Erdene has the full support of the MPP, but Udval will collect some of the votes that Enkhbayar received in 2009. These votes will come disproportionately from the MPP, rather than the DP, but there may also be some DP and coalition-supporters who could conceivably vote for Udval.
Support for Udval
How many votes will Udval get? This has to be a very speculative discussion at this point, in part because Udval had not really been anticipated as a likely candidate (the Sant Maral Foundation did not include questions about her in the PolitBarometer, for example) and in part because a three-way race may well change the dynamics of the campaign in a significant way. Also, it’s unclear whether Udval’s candidacy might attract significant support from women voters. In the past, there don’t seem to have big blocks of women voters for one candidate or another, but that may not be a reason for such a block or voting differentials to emerge in this election. Not only is Udval a female candidate, but she is the Minister of Health, an issue that is ranked higher in importance by women around the world. Of course, she has been a relatively quiet member of cabinet and is really primarily seen as a stand-in and loyal supporter of Enkhbayar.
Given the perception of Udval as a stand-in for Enkhbayar it is to be expected that Enkhbayar loyalists will vote for her, especially if a run-off is likely. If the campaign leads to an expectation of a run-off then an Udval vote is low-risk for an Enkhbayar supporter who might otherwise prefer Bat-Erdene to Elbedorj.
Given the MPRP’s electoral success in last year’s parliamentary election and other potential supporters for Udval, it strikes me as unlikely that she would received fewer than 5% of the vote.
It seems to me that Udval is likely to gain more than 5%, but that a share much beyond 12% is unlikely. That, however, implies the necessity of a run-off.
Why? For argument’s sake, let’s assume that Udval wins 10%. That leaves 90% of the votes to be distributed (to avoid a run-off, a candidate needs 50% +1 votes of the valid votes, I believe). For Elbegdorj (who continues to look like the likely winner) that would imply he would have to win approximately 55% of the remaining votes vs. Bat-Erdene’s 45%.
Given past differentials and the current look of the Elbegdorj-Bat-Erdene race, it strikes me as somewhat unlikely (but entirely possible) that Elbegdorj would receive that many of the non-Udval votes. The campaign seems set to unfold primarily on personality issues and here it seems unlikely that either Elbegdorj or Bat-Erdene is going to make enough headway to really distance himself from the other candidate.
While they are very different personalities, Elbegdorj primarily ran on his oratory skills and “clean government” claims in 2009 along with a Obamaesque message of hope and change. He is gearing up for a very similar campaign now.
Bat-Erdene, on the other hand, is largely relying on his wrestling-fame and reputation as someone who is in touch with and supportive of “traditional Mongolian values”. His only major policy initiative has been the “Law with the Long Name” which remains mired in implementation struggles.
Neither of these profiles currently, i.e. ahead of the beginning of the official campaign, looks like it will produce a margin of victory that would avoid the run-off.
This in turn would lead me to conclude – tentatively and for the moment – that a three-way race under the current circumstances looks to make a run-off election (on July 10) very likely.
Note that my fellow bloggers disagree with some aspects of this analysis. I would therefore particularly welcome comments, especially on the potential power of Udval’s campaign as well as the math involved in a run-off.