Non-Partisan Public Endorsement of Candidates

By Julian Dierkes

Two new actors announced themselves on the political scene last year, both non-partisan groupings seeking to support qualified candidates for public office: ЭЛЕКТОРАТ & Уухай.

Elder Statesmen

Elektorat (I somehow prefer the German-looking “k” ending over electorate) is a grouping of elder statesmen (and a few stateswomen, though only 6 out of 60) led by historian and commentator N Baabar. Members (for a listing see https://ikon.mn/n/1wfb where the announcement of its endorsement is also reproduced) explicitly disavow ambitions for public office themselves and are hoping to promote the “right” people to serve in parliament. The group emerged in part in reaction the SME Fund scandal and the sense that Mongolians were not well-governed by current MPs. The group did not target MPs of one particular party, but instead described itself as a non-partisan coalition of disinterested, public-visible personalities.

The 76 endorsements include candidates from the MPP, the DP, the National Labour Party, the Social Democratic Party, the New Party, the Ger Development Party, and independents. There are some members of this list who have been MPs in the past (Kh Temuujin), are current MPs (11) or are very prominent (PM Khurelsukh). To me there were certainly some surprises on this list, including MP Nomtoibayar who is fighting charges in court and has been primarily known (to me) for driving a three-axis G-Wagen around town, not something that I see as a strong qualification for political leadership. Some of the other current MPs on the list have also had their share of controversy in the past, so some of these selections were surprising, given the lofty claims that Elektorat makes in portraying itself as independent and substance-focused.

What remains very confusing to me is that the National Labour Party is competing jointly with the Social Democratic Party in a coalition called ЗӨВ ХҮН ЭЛЕКТОРАТ ЭВСЭЛ which suggests an endorsement by Elektorat, but the listing of 76 endorsed candidates is not limited to candidates nominated by this coalition.

Younger Foreign-Educated Professionals

An apparent generational rival to Elektorat emerged at a similar time, Уухай. It also aims to promote good people in their quest for public office in order to bring expertise and competence into parliament. This movement did not endorse 76 candidates.

These candidates are drawn only from the MPP and the ЗӨВ coalition plus one independent candidate. All of the Уухай-endorsed candidates for whom I could ascertain an age are under 50.

Overlap

There are 12 candidates whom both, Elektorat and Уухай endorsed (electoral district and party):

  • R Jargalmaa (1, ЗӨВ ХҮН ЭЛЕКТОРАТ)
  • B Gunbileg (4, ЗХЭ)
  • B Sodbold (19, ЗХЭЭ)
  • B Munkhdul (21, ЗХЭЭ)
  • P Naranbayar (22, ЗХЭЭ)
  • B Enkhbayar (22m MAH)
  • D Gantulga (23, ЗХЭЭ)
  • Kh Bulgantuya (23, MAH)
  • G Gankhuu (24, ЗХЭЭ)
  • B Munkhsoyol (24, ЗХЭЭ)
  • B Naidalaa (25, ЗХЭЭ)
  • Sh Enkhtuul (25, ЗХЭЭ)

This overlap includes four women (Jargalmaa, Bulgantuya, Munkhsoyol, and Enkhtuul). The overlap is heavily focused on Ulaanbaatar electoral districts, with only three candidates from the aimags (Arkhangai, Bulgan, Darkhan). None of these candidates have been members of parliament before and only the two MPP candidates would represent a party that is currently represented in parliament.

Implications

The notion of non-partisan endorsements of individual candidates is somewhat anathema to a party-driven democracy, of course. In a democratic contest between alternative policies to reach future development ambitions and goals, such individual endorsements do not seem to promote ideological contestation. At the same time, it is hard to argue against the point that a country needs competent representatives in parliament.

Whether or not groupings like this or these groupings in particular will have a future role in politics will depend to some extent on the success of the candidates they have endorsed. Since incumbents do well in many electoral contests, chances are that some of the Elektorat-endorsed candidates will be elected, but the small number of Уухай-endorsements and their focus on candidates not running for the established parties makes it somewhat unlikely that many of these candidates will be elected. If more than a handful of the Уухай-candidates are elected, however, this would represent a real sea-change in Mongolian politics.

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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