Presidential Elections: 3 Things Happened

By Julian Dierkes

The results of the June 26 presidential election has come as a big surprise. I did not expect Battulga to win and certainly did not expect Enkhbold to struggle to finish 2nd.

Lots of questions to think about in coming days. But here is an attempt at a very first, overarching look at what has happened and how to understand it by describing the result around 3 themes:

  1. Battulga won
  2. Mongolians spoke their mind
  3. Campaigns matter

Note that these are almost purely domestic issues, foreign policy and even relations with neighbours did not play a big role in the outcome, I think, despite some of the patriotic symbolism.

Battulga Won

Some of the football podcasts I listen to start with “chronicler’s diary”, i.e. the basic facts of the previous match.

While the closeness in the number of votes between Enkhbold and Ganbaatar and how that has come about is a fascinating topic, the most fundamental result of the election is that Kh Battulga won this election. He did not win it outright, i.e. not with 50%+, but he received around 8% more of the votes than either Enkbold or Ganbaatar.

Battulga essentially won on the back of a sweep of the large (in population terms) Ulaanbaatar districts. He achieved his best result in the city in Bayangol district where he received 50.6% of votes. Enkhbold’s less-than-glorious history as Ulaanbaatar mayor particularly related to land privatizations probably played a role in this sweep of the city districts, though the city has traditionally been a DP stronghold.

Mongolians Speak their Mind

Like last year, Mongolians spoke their mind and gave nearly a third of their votes to a candidate that was deemed to have at best an outside chance, Ganbaatar. Since the “natural constituency” for the MPRP is only about 7 or 8%, more than 20% of voters were either convinced by Ganbaatar’s campaign (strikes me as unlikely, see my impressions) or cast their ballot in protest against dominance of politics by MAHAH.

They voted in numbers equal to the last presidential election and some of the drop from last year’s parliamentary election might be attributed to the stifling heat.

I think that democracy is alive and well.

Campaigns Matter

Even when many Mongolians seem to think that only money matters in elections, some of the result can probably be attributed to campaigning. Not the substance of the platforms (which I’ve written about), but the personal qualities of the candidates. Put simply, Battulga was a much better campaigner than many expected and Enkhbold possibly even worse than expected.

Battulga seemed at ease in large as well as small forums and gained momentum by more and more support from DP grandees over the course of the campaign. This was also visible in the TV debate between the candidates. Battulga seemed at ease and even somewhat charming.

Not Enkhbold. He almost never smiled during the campaign, does not connect with audiences (even partisan ones) and simply does not build enthusiasm for his candidacy. While some may argue that a portion of Mongolian voters appreciate the dour-apparatchik demeanour as a signal of seriousness, I think many do not.

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 tweets @jdierkes
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