Election Talk around Town

By Julian Dierkes

I’ve only been in Ulaanbaatar for a couple of days, but I am having lots of conversations with contacts about the election. As Mendee keeps emphasizing, I may be the person in Ulaanbaatar who is most excited about the election.

Here are some snippets of some of these conversations then.

Voting Process

There are some obvious concerns about voters’ understanding of how they will actually cast their ballot. This is not surprising given the significant shift from purely first-past the post voting, albeit in multi-member districts, to a mix of direct election and a proportional vote where the direct election is happening in enlarged districts with a greater number of seats. I do not hear this worry from Mongolian contacts so much and they may share my confidence in the General Election Commission on voter education. Every parliamentary election since 2008 has seen a different electoral system, yet when I have had the chance as an election observers to ask voters whether they are confident that they know how to vote, the answers have been almost universally positive.


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I have already seen several elements in the GEC voter education campaign around town as in the above. The GEC also set up a polling station simulation on Sukhbaatar Sq last week which struck me as a very innovative idea, though I do not know whether this was replicated around the country.

The greater concern may be around the time that voting will take. Given the size of the ballot (some voters will be voting for 10 seats in multi-member districts) there is some work to be done in the voting booth. Ballots will not be valid unless the voter casts the number of votes that correspond to the number of seats contested in that constituency. If the voter lives in a seven-seat constituency, they have to cast seven direct election votes for the ballot to be valid. Apparently, voters get one re-do if they have not filled out the ballot accordingly and that will slow the process down even more. While it would be possible to add additional voting booths, the number of election machines that the ballot is deposited in is limited, so that lines may well form to insert the ballot which could create a bit of a traffic jam in actually casting the ballot. Note that the forced choice for all the available seats may lead to a greater number of spoiled ballots as voters might resent this. All of this may then lead to significant delays at polling stations which might turn some voters off from voting all-together.

I can only speculate that this might lead some to vote straight party slates to facilitate the voting, while others might deliberately mix their choices (3 candidates from one party 4 from another, etc.). I do not think that observers or party strategists have much of a chance to model voting strategies around this question so that we will not know from the results what voters might have chosen to do.


There is a sense that the DP has botched its candidate nomination process. Not only was the process itself bumpy, but there is little excitement about the candidates nominated to the party lists. There are just too few new or young faces to generate excitement, or so goes the widely-held perception. If that perception remains and is indeed widely held, the DP might not benefit as much from the desire for a chance in government that some voters might hold.


By contrast, many people seem quite impressed by how the MPP has handled the party list. This might be partly just their attempt to sell the party list, but many contacts of mine agree that they knew hardly anyone at the top of the party list, thus giving off a strong sense of new and fresh candidates.

Campaigning: TV

A number of contacts mentioned how much they were enjoying the candidate debates on TenGer TV. A sense that candidates actually had a chance to talk about substance and to show themselves to voters. Note, however, that the views on YouTube are in the low thousands, so perhaps the impact remains limited.

Campaigning: Poster Boards

Here is something that definitely is new: centralized poster boards with assigned spots for candidates. This has been common in Japan for a long time where I have seen it during many elections, perhaps this exists elsewhere. I was a bit surprised today that the poster board I saw was tucked away on the inside of a residential block, not an area that is likely to see much foot traffic and it appears that there are only limited numbers of these boards.

New #Mongolia campaign style: public poster boards with assigned fields for candidates.
#Сонгууль #Сонгууль2024 #MGLpoli

[image or embed]

— Mongolia Focus (@mongoliafocus.bsky.social) Jun 13, 2024 at 10:03 PM

Other than the scant poster boards, campaigning in the urban core of Ulaanbaatar has been quiet, maybe even subdued.


Among those who are interested in this election, there seems to be a popular game of trying to predict likely results. Given the absence of public polls, this really is a guessing game more than a prediction. But for the 48 seats that will be distributed by proportional representation, this guessing can be broken down into the number of votes a party might need relative to the number it may have gotten in the past. Divide the roughly 1.5m voters that are an easy-to-calculate guess at voter participation by 48 (seats), and you have a sense of how many votes may be needed to win a seat for a party, presuming that the minimum threshold will be met. The number of votes for parties that will not have met that minimum will change that number of votes for those parties winning seats, but this is still a rough guideline. Based on all of that, I’ve got some guesses in my mind, do you?

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 @jdierkes@sciences.social.
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