By Julian Dierkes
This fall has brought a series of political tussles over ambassadorships that have hinted at one of the great rising challenges in Mongolia’s governance, corruption seemingly becoming a systemic block rather than simply a surtax upon transactions involving the state.
Some of these tussles seem to have been of a partisan nature with Pres. Battulga rejecting ambassadorial appointments finalized before his win of the presidency.
The greater challenge arose from the nomination of B Khurts, former head of the General Intelligence Agency and Deputy Chief of the Independent Authority Against Corruption and also former hindrance to the visit of German Chancellor Merkel in 2011.
This nomination in November led to a series of exchanges in parliament that were shocking in the extent to which Khurts felt at liberty to threaten parliamentarians. These threats took the form of a stand-off with Khurts implying knowledge of misdeeds perpetrated by various politicians who in turn responded with hints at Khurts’ crimes. None of these allegations seem to lead to serious investigations (with the possible exception of the documents collected by the parliamentary committee around Lu Bold against Khurts) suggesting the paralyzing nature of these stand-offs where mutual accusations reinforce the popular sense that all politicians are corrupt to some extent, but that they are not held accountable for these actions.
Since the Khurts process was not reported on in media outside of Mongolia but does seem to present a very real challenge to parliamentary democracy, we’ve offered the timeline below to document developments in the past two months.
October 26, 2017
Khurts, Chief of the General Intelligence Agency, made a press conference – (allegations about (1) Nyamdorj’s Chinese spy case; (2) his interest group – Altankhuyag (ex prime minister) and Dorligjav (ex Minister of Justice) – all from Uvs province; (3) Nyamdorj’s past influence on bidding/procurement for the Erdenet factory; (4) Nyamdorj’s continued strong interests in Zorig’s assassination case)
Nyamdorj, MP, Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs, – denied all allegation, Khurts fears of the disclosure of number of wrongdoings – (1) the trial of the Zorig’s case and (2) Erdenet privatization
November 1, 2017
The Government cabinet appointed D. Gerel as a Chief of the General Intelligence Agency. He was a chief in 2012-2013, but fired by Prime Minister Altankhuyag, who appointed a DP-affiliated non-professional to the post.
The Cabinet submitted Khurts’ nomination as an Ambassador to South Korea to the President.
November 6, 2017
MP Batzandan opposed Khurts’ nomination and called for a open hearing on four major complaints – as he received when he was the Complaints’ Standing Committee of the parliament. He started to the petition to collect 19 MPs’ endorsement. http://eagle.mn/r/36460
Batzandan proposed the open hearing on 4 points: (1) the detention and prosecution of Enkhbat in connection with the Zorig’s case, (2) the trial of the Zorig’s assassination case, (3) Khurts’ involvement of the privatization of the 49 percent share of the Erdenet; and (4) complaints received by the Complaints’ Standing Committee about the abuse of power.
A few days later, 21 MPs submitted their support for holding an open hearing on Khurts’ misuse of authority to the Speaker and asked to delay his nomination hearing until the public hearing occurs.
November 8, 2017
Presidential office submitted Khurts’ nomination to the parliament.
November 15, 2017
During the ambassadorial nomination hearings at the Standing Committee on Security and Foreign Policy, Khurts made several allegations about MP Lu Bold. Lu Bold strongly opposed the nomination and pledged to reveal the truth.
November 20, 2017
Khurts participated in the Non-Censored Talk Show – to explain (or to defend) himself
November 27, 2017
Nyamdorj participated in the Non-Censored Talk Show – to respond Khurts’ allegation.
December 15, 2017
The Speaker organized a closed session, with a request of MP Baasankhuu, on Khurts’ nomination and endorsed his nomination (69 percent).
At the exact same time, J. Batzandan, Lu Bold organized the public hearing in the government house. MPs A. Sukhbat, M. Oyunchimeg, L. Oyun-Erdene and Nyamdorj joined. Nyamdorj also expressed his concern of the conflict of interests (as a Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs) and didn’t sign the minute.
December 19, 2017
MPs submitted the minute the public hearing to Speaker and President – to reconsider their decisions of nominating Khurts for ambassadorial posting and to conduct further investigations based on complaints (public).
December 22, 2017
President Battulga postponed the presidential endorsement for Khurts’ ambassadorial posting to South Korea until all allegations and issues to be cleared while asking the government to reconsider its nominees for ambassadorial posting in Japan, US, and Canada.