Saikhanbileg Elected Prime Minister

On the morning of November 21, the Mongolian parliament elected Ch Saikhanbileg as the new prime minister.

He was elected by a 42:2 vote which means that 32 members of the State Great Khural were absent for the voting. While I’m waiting for an exact listing of votes cast the absence of the MPP from the vote suggests that he was elected with (near-)unanimous support from the previous DP+Justice Coalition + Civil Will Green Party coalition.

Assessing a Future Saikhanbileg Government

I had previously posted some thoughts on what a Prime Minister Saikhanbileg might signal (compared to R Amarjargal by comparison).

Some days later now, my basic assessment holds. It is hard – though possible – to imagine Prime Minister Saikhanbileg elected by the same coalition as a significant departure from the previous government and it is thus equally hard to place great faith in his government in addressing some of the pressing social and economic issues that Mongolia is facing.

The two aspects of his election that might lead to a slightly more optimistic assessment are: his age (born in 1969 he is clearly of a different generation from leaders like Altankhuyag, Amarjargal or Pres. Elbegdorj) and the possibility of a more pragmatic cabinet of experts and professionals (following the political mood that I found earlier in the week in Ulaanbaatar in this regard).

By contrast, Saikhanbileg’s role in the previous government as cabinet secretary and his biography as a career politician (he was an MP and minister during the 1996-2000 period of DP government which turned somewhat disastrous in the last two years) do not give much cause for optimism.

The final cause for some concern is the chaotic manner in which this election came about. Given how seemingly self-destructive some of the political games that were played by leaders were and the extent to which a comparison with the implosion of the Democratic Union coalition in 1998-2000 seems obvious, there may be some doubts about how durable the Saikhanbileg government will be. It would be surprising to see Saikhanbileg serve out the remainder of the term until June 2016 from my perspective. The next moment of ferment might come after the lunar year, a period going into the Spring that traditionally brings some restlessness to Mongolian politics.

I had previously posted a bio for Saikhanbileg and re-post that here:

Some Background on Saikhanbileg

Chimed Saikhanbileg (Чимэдийн Сайханбилэг) was born in 1969 in Dornod. He was educated at Moscow State University for the Humanities (History), at the National University of Mongolia (Law) and at George Washington University (Law). He speaks English and Russian.

Saikhanbileg was an MP from 1996-2000 and served as Minister of Education 1998-2000. More recently he has served as Minister of the Cabinet Office under Prime Minister N Altankhuyag since 2012. He was elected as an MP in 2008 from Ulaanbaatar’s Bayanzurkh-Nalaikh riding and re-elected in 2012 from the DP party list.

He came into the Democratic Party from the Mongolian Youth Federation where he was president from 1997-2002. From 2008-12 he served as the leader of the Democratic caucus in parliament.

In both his most recent roles, i.e. as caucus chair 2008-12 and as cabinet secretary he has been associated primarily with party work and has had less of a public profile on policy issues. He belongs to the Polarstar faction of the DP. He is said to have had a very good relationship with frm. President Enkhbayar but is also perceived to be close to Pres Elbegdorj.

While Saikhanbileg has Twitter and Facebook accounts he has largely stayed off social media for the past year. Along with former wrestler Bat-Erdene, he may well be the tallest member of parliament.


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 and tweets @jdierkes
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