By Marissa J. Smith
With the official start of campaigning season this week, and more information about the candidates approved by the GEC now available, the picture on third parties is clearer.
In addition to Demos, which I discussed last week, the main third party standing is ATOZN, Ард түмний олонхийн засаглал нам, or “People’s Majority Governance Party.” Like Demos, this party is relatively new, registered in January 2019, does not have clear links to other parties (though it has some connection at least with the ATOZ — a “зөвлөл” and not a party — which participated in the winter 2019 demonstrations). Unlike Demos, the party does not have a highly coordinated and centralized online presence, though there has been enough action online in the past few days to make a few observations.
In short: with the combination of the use of nationalist symbols and language, and generalized criticisms of wealth in politics, ATOZN fits the mold of “populist” party (circa 2016-2017?) better than any of the others currently making a mark online. At the time of writing, i.e. after candidacy has been approved by the GEC, at least one party candidate is naming the Mongolian National United Front, an organization that unlawfully demonstrated and called for the dissolution of Parliament this past fall, and was warned by the General Intelligence Agency against calling for violence. In addition to this, police officers and at least one state prosecutor are running for office.
On individual Facebook accounts, ATOZN candidates have shared a post with police officers and a state prosecutor, with the description of their party being or including a “Хуульчдын баг.” A party candidate also posted pictures of a rally on Sukhbaatar Square. The message seems to be that the party is composed of individuals already holding state power. For police or prosecutors to run for political office representing themselves as such however has been unusual in Mongolian electoral politics.
Criticism of Wealth in Politics
There is now also a fairly active Facebook group for the party. Also of note is the prominence of posts by and about Shagdarsurengiin Gantulga, candidate in Songinokhairkhan district. He is pictured below, an “international journalist,” between fellow Songinokhiarkhan candidates. Gantulga’s posts, which are shared by other ATOZN candidates, concentrate on criticism of wealth in politics (speaking of “олигарх баягчид”) in a general sense, with some emphasis on offshore accounts (an issue which has mostly been eclipsed now by the SME and later scandals). He was also interviewed by Sonin.mn (and here is a lengthy interview with Sh. Gantulga from 2018.)
Nationalist Symbolism and Language
Readers may note that though the хас is not a pronounced symbol in the party’s logo, it does appear added to one of the party’s official caps. I should also say that the official party platform (мөрийн хөтөлбөр) submitted to the National Audit Office, “revolutionizing national consciousness” appears as the first of three goals. One of Sh. Gantulga’s facebook “broadcasts” also includes a banner with a black туг/хар сүлд (war banner) bound with a хас.
Other Third Parties
The Mongolian Green Party has had a small number of candidates cleared to participate in the election, notably in the three mining-heavy Gobi aimags, and three candidates in Bayangol. O. Bum-Yalagch, who has lead the party since it broke away from the Civil Will-Green Party unification and was a prominent actor in post-2008 movements (see Alan Sanders’ Historical Dictionary of Mongolia), is heading the party and running in Sukhbaatar District.
The Sahigtun! coalition’s numbers steeply decreased on Ikon’s dashboard after the GEC’s certifications were released, and now has 34 candidates, in comparison to Demos’ 30 and ATOZN’s 24. The coalition also has been active online, with the trend so far being for individual candidates to maintain their own Facebook profiles, with many adding logo frames to their profile pictures.