By Julian Dierkes
Wow, what a victory for the MPP. Certainly unexpected in this magnitude, but that’s what happens with first-past-the-post voting, i.e. a series of small and big victories in constituencies adds up to a HUGE victory in terms of seats in the State Great Khural, currently projected to be 65 MPP, 9 DP, 1 MPRP, 1 Independent.
That is not just a majority, but a super-duper-majority with 85% of the seats in parliament.
By all early accounts, the election seems to have run well, despite the very late switch to first-past-the-post. There have been no reports of major glitches and the results were reported very quickly. This was always meant to be an advantage of electronic counting, but given decisive margins in almost all races, this advantage was actually realized.
Everyone won. Well, almost, but obviously, there were only 11 candidates who didn’t. Party leader M Enkhbold certainly won.
Everyone lost. Well, almost. Some of the DP grandees lost which is quite significant as this could serve as a potential catalyst for the rejuvenation of the DP.
Some of the most prominent politicians who went down in defeat:
- UIX speaker Z Enhkbold
- long-time thorn-in-everyones-side Kh Battulga
- PM Ch Saikhanbileg
- former PM N Altankhuyag
- former MP and Min of Justice Kh Temuujin
- etc., etc.
No major breakthroughs for any independents or smaller parties.
The one independent who has been elected is S Javkhlan. I am a big fan of his music, but he’s quite a nationalist. He’ll be easy to brand as a voice for “resource nationalism”, that foreign invention that almost all foreign analysts invoke when writing about Mongolia, but his election is about personal popularity and stardom, not a building movement, or any kind of ideology, I would argue.
Perhaps notable, S Ganbaatar, former independent MP was not elected either, blocking any thoughts of him running for president next year on the strength of his personal popularity.
When final results will be out, there will be more of a chance to see whether any independent candidates or small parties gained significant shares of the vote.
Note that the Civil Will Green Party has been eliminated from parliament with this election. Its two former MPs either chose not to run (long-time MP and former foreign minister and minister for green development, S Oyun) or defeated as a DP candidate (S Demberel).
Even the MPRP only gained one seat.
Currently, it looks like 13 women will be seated in the new parliament. That is a surprise as the decision not to run by some women, coupled with the dropping of the candidate quota from 30 to 20% suggested that there may be fewer women in parliament.
I had heard a lot about voter frustration in the last several days. While the turnout is low (no final figure yet), voters seemed to have made a very clear choice suggesting that their opposition to the DP (perhaps more than support for the MPP) overcame any apathy among voters.
Some of the analysis will have to wait until more turnout details are in and a better sense of the votes that have gone to independents also helps with that.
I had expected that Mongolia would be no different than most democracies, i.e. a bad economy spells trouble for governing parties. I didn’t expect the DP to be decimated, but that’s in part due to majoritarian voting rather than a landslide of national sentiment.
There is some speculation that the announcement of a sale of the Russian 49% stake in the Erdenet mine to the (Mongolian) Trade and Development Bank just a day before the vote, might have swayed voters, but it’s unclear to me why this would have swung sentiment toward the MPP or away from the DP.
I do also think that this result is a repudiation of most of the DP leadership. Many of these leaders were not re-elected and the DP thus suffers a result that is in part due to its internal divisions and inability to promote younger leaders into parliament or the public’s eye.
In all likelihood (and despite the looming ASEM meeting), the government will not be constituted until an initial session of the State Khural in September. For the duration of the summer, there will thus be an MPP-government-in-waiting.
Probably the most important implication of this victory is that whatever they decide to do, an MPP government will be relatively stable, particularly by comparison with the faction-ridden DP and the coalitions it had to be involved in.
The MPP’s majority is so sizeable and party discipline within the MPP more rigid that a stable government is to be expected. The parallel victory of the MPP in the Ulaanbaatar city elections (34 seats in city council to DP’s 11) reinforces this stability further.
That stability could be threatened somewhat by the presidential election next year, but the current result means that it is totally unclear who might emerge as DP candidates, or whom the MPP might field. Obviously, a DP president would put a check on the majority MPP government.
In terms of appointments, the MPP has been very careful to squash all speculation so beyond the assumption that M Enkhbold will be prime minister, there really isn’t a strong sense of whom they might appoint, and how many members of cabinet will be MPs.
The biggest question about the MPP majority government thus will be whether it decides to “take revenge” on the DP.
One part of this question pertains to the public service where the DP had engaged in a wholesale rotation of an astonishing number of officials. The purported recording of MPP leader Enkhbold discussing patronage appointments suggests that some of this rotation will occur again, but how low in the bureaucratic order will it go? Will the MPP restrain itself and target offices that are meant to be political appointments, say state secretaries, or will this once again mean that we will meet another whole new cast of people in ministries, government bodies, and education?
The second aspect of a potential revenge is the security apparatus. The DP had politicized the judicial system and anti-corruption efforts significantly, so it would not be surprising to see the MPP take over positions and now “go after” political opponents. I hope that instead, the new government will keep the interest of the country and of democracy in mind and not engage in this kind of revenge.
The MPP campaign did not suggest that any major policy changes are coming. Given the enormous public debt amassed by previous governments, the state budget doesn’t leave much room for any major initiatives. While there be some adjustments and ministerial appointments will determine some of these, I don’t foresee any major changes in foreign policy, economic development or social policy.