More Presidential Election Speculation

By Julian Dierkes

If you have been reading our blog, you know that I cannot resist speculating about electoral chances and outcomes. That is even more speculative now, as I have been unable to travel to Mongolia since December 2019 with all the challenges that entails.

More seriously, election fever is in full swing, judging by public manifestations, so ten days before candidates have been nominated, I wanted to offer an update on my March speculation.

Note that my contacts in various parties have not been as forthcoming in sharing internal secrets or deliberations with me, so these musing remain lamentably uninformed by knowledge of internal debates or any polling that may be happening. They have also remained unaided by the above vodka bottle that I have been able to locate!

MPP Candidate Khurelsukh

Even more than a month ago, the presidential election seems Khurelsukh’s to lose. Some months ago, some of Pres Battulga’s statements and judicial actions seem to suggest that he was expecting Su Batbold to be the MPP’s candidate. I do not see any evidence of that.

How much will Khurelsukh be hurt by the rapid shooting up of the COVID infection rate? Oddly enough, his sudden resignation in January may have freed him from that association, reinforcing the sense at the time that his resignation was due to a presidential election calculus.

Even though Khurelsukh may thus disassociate himself from the COVID disaster, it will still reflect on him as he had been PM for the prior nine months, but the COVID successes of that time may ring somewhat hollow now.

My guess would be that Battulga’s accusations of militarization and pursuit of one-party dominance may hurt the MPP more than Khurelsukh personally. It might thus provoke more of an anti-MPP-dominance vote than an anti-Khurelsukh vote though the effect may be the same.

DP Candidate Candidates

Frankly, I cannot keep track of the different parts of the DP. At this point, I am not even entirely sure what body might be “entitled” to nominate a presidential candidate and whether that nomination will stand without court intervention.

At this point, given the court decision to confirm that Pres Battulga would not be allowed to run for re-election, and parliaments affirmation of that ruling, it seems quite unlikely to me that Battulga will be participating in the presidential election. By no means impossible and the fact that he might not participate will surely destabilize the outcome, but I currently do not see the path by which he regains access to the election legally, but even in terms of the DP’s nomination.

I do think that his accusations against the MPP will have strengthened some Mongolian’s trepidation about handing the MPP the presidency after being reelected in resounding fashion in last year’s parliamentary election. That trepidation might then turn out to be the deciding factor in the election and the deciding factor in terms of whom the DP might nominate and how that nomination might interact with the nomination of a candidate by XYH.

Mongolian voters’ trepidation about the dominance of a single party fuelled Battulga’s election win in 2017. I imagine that any strategic advice the DP would come up with would be to select a candidate as their nominee who is maximally different from Khurelsukh and can make some credible claim about being a reform candidate.

The cast of potential candidates speculated about above does not look like that strategic advice is running strong in the DP. The fact that all six of these candidates are quite familiar does not strike me as a good sign to portray any DP candidate as a strong alternative to Khurelsukh. S Erdene has been at the head of the DP for some time (before the current administrative split). I think that most Mongolians would chuckle if he portrayed himself as anything like a new, fresh force in Mongolian politics, or – as Marissa Smith reminded me – rely on that well-worn DP cliché of being the source of democracy in Mongolia. Instead, many might point to last year’s electoral defeat that was at least in part rooted in the DP’s (under Erdene) choice of a relatively well-known, some might say, tired cast of candidates that included some of the candidates speculated about above.

Bat-Uul? Democratic partisan and veteran of the 1990 revolution, but a reformer in 2021?

As Reddit user Bardal reminded me, Altankhuyag is sitting as an independent member of parliament, but was included in this listing on the assumption that he would be willing to return to the DP fold.

Amarjargal and Temuujin might have a slightly stronger claim in that regard in that they have been outsiders in their own party to some extent. Amarjargal may have been second choice behind Battulga in the 2017 nomination and would lay claim to economic expertise as his forte, something that could be parlayed into post-COVID necessity in an electoral campaign, though a president’s powers do not include any areas that have a direct impact on the economy. His appeal as an outside-insider may be relatively strong, but he was not elected in last year’s parliamentary election on the strength of that.

Erstwhile MP and Minister of Justice Temuujin would probably point to his (aborted) judicial reforms as an indication of his  desire to transform one aspect of the Mongolian polity that is essential and remains in need of reform, the judiciary. But he has also been active in politics for a long time.

I have a hard time with any of the above candidates of imagining that XYH might decide that these candidates are enough reform for their taste to refrain from nominating a candidate. That would suggest that candidates like these (longtime politicians with spotty records of representing any kind of significant alternative to the MPP) might well provoke a more daring nomination by XYN which would in turn likely produce a split of the opposition-against-Khurelsukh camp, although there was actually less evidence of such splits in last year’s parliamentary election than one might have expected.

That leaves Oyungerel as a possibility. The one aspect of her trajectory that I cannot understand and get over is her enthusiasm in her support for Battulga in 2017. What did she see in him that she decided to support so enthusiastically. My sense was that her enthusiasm was barely rivalled only by erstwhile Yokozuna Asashoryu.

But, as a woman, with her foreign education, and with her very serious toilet campaign, she does fit the bill of a reform candidate to some extent.

Enough to persuade XYH not to nominate their own candidate? That is entirely unclear to me.

XYH and MPRP?

I have no idea. There do not seem to be a lot of whispers about a XYH candidate which has prompted my thinking above that they might forego nominating someone who is unlikely to win, but will divide the vote. If the DP nominates an apparatchik, however, the temptation will be strong for XYH to spoil that nominee’s chances.

If you, dear reader, have views or knowledge of XYH discussions of a nominee, I would be delighted to hear them!

As usual there are some discussions that MPRP might re-merge with the MPP, though surely, some reinstatement of political chances for N Enkhbayar would have to be part of that. Why would the MPP? So that MPRP does not nominate a candidate? Arguably Ganbaatar’s campaign in 2017 was a fly in M Enkhbold’s and thus the then-MPP’s soup.

Other Predictions

Almost certainly, we will see some “secret photo” leaked in the next six weeks that will show a presidential candidate receiving an envelope from representatives of the Rev. Moon.

But note the date!

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
This entry was posted in Democratic Party, Elections, Mongolian People's Party, Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, National Labor Party, Party Politics, Politics, Presidential 2021 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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