By Byambajav Dalaibuyan
The 2008 parliamentary election had some features resembling the current election.
A multi-member majoritarian or block voting system was used in 2008. Compared to single-member, majoritarian systems, this system requires candidates to run campaigns in much larger election districts and reach twice or thrice more voters. So, the established parties with institutional and financial capacity have a crucial advantage. New candidates or parties need to have the capacity to compete with them by their social popularity, financial capacity and concerted action of their supporters. In 2008, 56 of 76 seats or mandates were allocated to rural regions while only 20 were in the capital city. In 2020, rural and capital city ratio is 52:24.
In 2008, new and small political parties were not able to establish strong coalitions to counterbalance the power of the two established parties. While they expressed similar views against the established parties their divisions likely led to the spread of the vote among them. in 2020, we will likely see similar trends of vote distribution among new and small political parties despite their efforts to coalesce.
In 2008, each voter could choose as many candidates in the election district as the number of mandates or seats allocated in the election district. So, for example, a voter could choose only one candidate even tough the election district had two or more mandates. In 2020, each voter must choose the same number of candidates as the number of allocated mandates in the election district. If a voter chooses less or more candidates than the mandate in the election district the ballot will be invalid. This can result much closer election results in many election districts compared to 2008.
It was sufficient for a candidate to ask voters to vote only for him/her in 2008. This tactic is not enough in 2020. Though candidates from one party and coalition are campaigning together and calling for voting for them as a team there are alleged covert campaign tactics of some candidates that encourage voters to choose only them and give one or two other votes to candidates from other parties, preferably unpopular candidates.
There was a 25% threshold in 2008. If candidates who received a plurality of votes cannot pass the 25% threshold of votes they needed to compete in a second-round. In 2020, no threshold is required by law. Unless votes are extremely spread among candidates, 25% will not be hard to pass.
Many popular movements demanding political accountability and social justice had emerged since 2005 and their activities attracted public support in the 2008 election. Many of the movement leaders ran in the 2008 parliamentary election as leaders of a new party or as independents. Political instability and corruption scandals in 2004-2008 motivated many people to run for seats in the parliament. Of the total of 356 candidates, 311 were from 12 parties and one coalition, and 45 were independents.
According to Sant Maral’s Politbarometer polls, about 15% of voters were willing to commit their vote to third parties and independents in May, 2008.
In 2020, 606 candidates are running; 13 political parties, 4 coalitions, and independents. Like 2008, a series of corruption scandals and declining trust in the competence and integrity of incumbents motivated many people to run for the parliament election as party members or independents. As Sant Maral’s Politbarometer poll in March 2020 did not include questions on elections and parties, I looked at the poll of March, 2019. Third parties and independents had about 17% of voter’s support, which was higher than that of MPP and DP. Some political decisions ahead of elections may have positively affected MPP’s ratings since 2019. That can also be true for DP and third parties.
“If parliament elections were held tomorrow, which party would you vote for?”
The poll results seem to reflect social enthusiasm built around the popular movements in 2008 and positive public perception of the maturity of third parties ahead of the 2020 elections.
Furthermore, in 2008, the number of people who expressed their support for one party was nearly twice higher than 2020, which means that the two established parties lost a significant number of loyal supporters in the last decade.
People who favour one certain party
“The favourite one” party
On top of that, public trust in political parties in 2020 is nearly twice lower than 2008. Even in rural regions where public trust in the two established parties dropped to 13.5% in 2020.
In your opinion, do political parties represent public opinion? % of “No”
And, frustration built around social injustice is much stronger in 2020 than 2008.
In general, is there more justice or more injustice in our society? % of “more injustice”
Social injustice is frequently being described nowadays and discussed as a consequence of corrupt political institutions and politicians. It is reported by various polls that voters are increasingly inclined to vote for clean, new and competent politicians.
However, it is notable that the results of the 2008 election did not reflect the social enthusiasm for political reform. The MPP won 45 seats and the DP won 28 seats. Civil Will-Green Party won 2 seats and only one independent candidate could win a seat. All three candidates were popular and respected public figures. Leaders of popular movements were not able to gain significant votes and ranked far below than candidates from the established parties.
Unlike 2008, much more concerted and random endorsement campaigns for new, competent, and clean politicians through social media platforms and on the ground may help to attract more votes in 2020.
The administration of elections has improved since 2008. Manual ballot counting has been replaced by electronic counting. Domestic independent observers were not allowed in 2008, but now they participate in a range of monitoring activities.
Importantly, the accuracy and integrity of voter list was a major issue in 2008. The Election law allowed voting stations to assign up to 2000 to the list for any single election sub-district. The election lists provided by GEC were often incorrect and fluctuated up to 20% when checked against registration information at election district committees. The accuracy and integrity of voter registration and list have improved much in the last the decade. Voter registration information can be checked online, by independent monitoring and at voting stations. Though covert voter movements between election districts and irregularities in the voters’ list are still reported in 2020 their magnitude seems to be not as serious as that of 2008.