Party Landscape and Constitutional Amendments in Summer 2023

By Julian Dierkes and Marissa J. Smith

While the MPP has now had a supermajority in parliament since 2016, the 2024 election is beginning to loom and the newly adopted constitutional amendment and amended Law on Elections with their shift to a larger parliament elected partially by proportional representation, obviously fits into the current party landscape to some extent.

After initial consultations about the creation of a mixed election systems and the doubling of the membership of parliament in early May, the amendment calls for a parliament of 126 members, 48 of whom would be elected by proportional representations from nation-wide party lists. Julian’s previous comments on this expansion and change to the electoral system remain the same.

For the current proposal, it is unclear to us what the significance of the numbers of 48 (proportionally elected members) or 126 (total members) is other than a desire to have a smaller number than the initially proposed doubling of parliament where 126 was perhaps a compromise. The sudden addition of two directly elected seats to go from 76 (in place since the democratic revolution) to 78 also remains somewhat obscure.

What positions are the more established parties taking toward this constitutional amendment and what might motivate that support? Conventional wisdom on electoral systems change typically looks to the self-interest of parties participating in that decision, i.e. some kind of calculation whether a given party is more likely to win a majority under proposed electoral systems.


Since the re-merger of the MPRP into the MPP, the MPRP no longer plays a separate role in these discussions despite the efforts of former president and MPRP leader N Enkhbayar to generate a different constitutional reform process during the past winter.

Why would the MPP support a mixed proportional/majoritarian systems?

If self-interested calculation dominates a party’s decision, it is surprising to see the MPP support proportional representation since the party has done very well with a majoritarian system in the 2016 and 2020 elections.  But this surprise fits with earlier observations that the MPP is struggling with its supermajority in parliament. That struggle has its roots both within the party, where the central party bodies seem to provide little policy direction and research, but also in the relations between individual MPs and the cabinet.

During the session on June 16, 2023 in which the Law on Elections was amended to conform with the new amendment, Speaker Zandanshatar stated “There are many interests that want to divide Mongolia, keep it disunited, powerless, and undeveloped. […] There should be a unified position in foreign and domestic policies for the greater interests of the country. In this sense, the Election Law has been amended and this law must be consistently followed.” This would seem to associate the move with stability on the part of the MPP.

The factor that has been discussed more recently, partly in the wake of Apr and Dec 2022 protests is that the absence of an effective opposition in parliament is more likely to lead to protests as discontent does not have a political outlet within parliament.

MPP support therefore seems to be rooted in its prospects in the 2024 election (good), coupled with a calculation that giving up a certain number of seats to the opposition may actually strengthen governance. On the other hand, civil society organizations have raised concerns about provisions in the draft version of the new Law on Election that would place further limits on the amount of money that can be spent on campaign-related print media, stating that “that Mongolian politicians have been avoiding traditional media and seeking to manipulate information through the “artificial” possibilities of social media and social networks.” (The text of the final law is not yet available.)

Looking at individual MPs’ calculations in supporting the constitutional amendment, I would have to guess that some of them might feel secure in their majoritarian seats while others may be speculating that they would have a good chance on a national list. Take nationally prominent politicians, perhaps L Oyun-Erdene, as an example and one would presume that he would be able to secure a very high spot on the MPP party list (especially if he remains as party chair in a year’s time) thus allowing him to rely on national prominence in running for re-election, while there will be others who will be jockeying for list placements if they feel less secure about their chances in a majoritarian district. The wildcard in these calculations originally were initiatives, subsequently defeated, to institute a “zipper” system for the party lists where nominations would alternate between men and women. This would limit the number of “safe” list spots that might be available to men and since most MPP MPs are men, this might intensify the jockeying for spots. The other wildcard would be a calculation of whether directly-elected MPs might somehow carry more weight in a newly-constituted parliament for being backed by a constituency unlike the more amorphous proportional representation route. That might make itself felt in committee assignments, for example, which might be reduced due to the increased membership in parliament. On the other hand, as we have noted before, there has been a tendency in Mongolian governance to attempt to curtail the potential for MPs or aimag governors to devolve resources from the center to province or soum-level administrations; restructuring parliament so that only some of its members are associated with aimag-based constituencies aligns with this trend.

Regardless of these individual calculations, the MPP caucus in parliament seems in favour of the proposed changes, either through their own conviction or the party general secretary’s “whip”.

DP uniting, fighting against KhUN

It is still unclear whether the DP has actually overcome its divisions including the fight over the party seal this Spring to reemerge as a credible political force. In the debates about constitutional amendments, the DP oddly seems to be taking the position that it would benefit from a two-party system as it is encouraged by a majoritarian election system. I find this odd for a number of reasons: a) what about democratization? The only clear difference with the MPP in defining political party agendas, were efforts at deepening political participation, for example through local decision-making. While this agenda had been abandoned under Battulga, it does remain as one of the defining characteristics of the DP, so it is peculiar to see the DP apparently opposing the introduction of proportional representation for fear that it might have to share opposition status with KhUN or – potentially, depending most likely on the minimum threshold require for entry into parliament – other parties. b) The DP’s reaction therefore has been primarily one that seems to be targeting KhUN. KhUN is not alone in having discovered neo-liberalism as an ideology, many aspects of MPP legislation could also be described as that, but the DP clearly seems threatened by KhUN and thus seems to be treating proposals for constitutional revision and changes in the electoral system as a defensive battle against KhUN rather than as an opportunity to counter the MPP’s traditional strength in local organization, for example. DP rhetoric thus seems to want to brand KhUN as an “MPP puppet” and as performing the MPP’s bidding.

KhUN looking for an electoral strategy

The National Labour Party (KhUN) appears to have taken a different ideological direction recently, but it remains very focused on pursuing strategies toward greater representation in parliament. KhUN and its lone MP, T Dorjkhand, have thus been broadly supportive of the addition of seats elected by proportional representation based on the calculation that KhUN would have a greater chance at winning seats that way, especially with its presumed strength in urban ridings. Note that Enkhbat’s relative electoral success was not exclusively built on urban support, but he certainly returned large numbers of votes in Ulaanbaatar that would lead to a conclusion that a proportional representation electoral system would benefit KhUN.

The DP charge that KhUN and Dorjkhand are somehow acting on behalf of the MPP here seems somewhat far-fetched and the usual conspiracy theories that seem to accompany all political action in Mongolia.

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 toots and tweets @jdierkes
This entry was posted in Constitution, Democracy, Democratic Party, Elections, Ikh Khural 2024, JD Democratization, Mongolian People's Party, National Labor Party, Party Politics, Politics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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