Guest Post: In Search of New, Clean, and Young Candidates for Politics in Mongolia

By Munkh-Erdene G

For over a month, the reality show “Candidate-2024” was filmed, producing eight episodes to introduce new faces to Mongolia’s political landscape. As one of the 100 participants selected from more than 500 applicants, I was a complete newcomer to both politics and this type of TV show. Coming from an academic background as an anthropologist and not being affiliated with any political party, I found it fascinating to meet a diverse group of candidates, including party members, mid-level and local government officials, social media influencers, and especially young people under thirty.

Stages of the Competition: Knowledge Assessment

The first task of the show was a test based on the civil servant exam of the Mongolian government. It assessed basic knowledge of Mongolian history, culture, general laws, and common sense. Shockingly, 50 participants were eliminated at this stage, while the remaining half were allowed to continue to the next level of the show.

Stage 2: Political Parties

The second task involved establishing a new political party by five teams. It closely resembled the actual process of creating a political party, including developing a vision, agenda, political ideology, and even an action plan for the upcoming election. The judges were 100 voters randomly selected to represent different social groups in society who voted for only one party and one member of the parties. Along with the voters, three experts advised and commented on the five parties’ performances. Most of the parties’ political ideologies were social democratic, with only one party declaring its ideology as right-center. In their action plans for the upcoming election, the parties mainly focus on social welfare, improving justice in society and political life, and reducing corruption and poverty.

As a result, only one party was declared the winner, and ten participants were eliminated based on their performance as team members and in individual activities.

Stage 3: Social Engagement

For the third task, the remaining 40 candidates were divided into four teams to complete social engagement duties within 48 hours. Each team had to select a concerning social issue from a provided list and develop a solution. Three civil society experts judged the task. My team chose to renovate the library at School 59 in Ülziit village, Khan-Uul District, Ulaanbaatar. The winning team’s solution was to install bidet toilet seats in maternity hospitals. The second team chose to install LED-lit crosswalks on two different roads in the east and west of Ulaanbaatar. The team that finished last attempted to renovate a well for clean water in one of the Ger districts and to build a bus station for the local community.

Stage 4: Campaigning

Only 30 candidates remained for the fourth mission, while the ten members from the last two teams in the previous task were eliminated from the show. At this stage, surprisingly, two new candidates joined the three teams formed by the TV show. The mission resembled election campaigns, where teams had to gather students over the weekend and introduce new amendments regarding the number of parliament members and the election system in the constitution. This time, my team won by gathering more students and introducing the new amendments more effectively than the other teams. However, the surprise was that the team with the lowest performance was completely eliminated.

Stage 5: Effective Policy-Making

The fifth task seemed a bit tricky for us. Initially, we were divided into teams, but the task focused more on individual performance in finding effective solutions within a short time frame. We assumed roles as different government officials, such as the chair of the digital transformation initiative, a member of the Mongolian Parliament, or the Minister of Mining, to address sector-related issues. The team discussed the issue together for an hour, but each candidate presented their solution individually in front of the four judges. Based on the candidates’ presentation skills, the judges eliminated four participants from the show.

Stage 6: Videos

The remaining fifteen candidates were teamed up to three and made a 90 second short video on representatives of different social groups for parliament. Within 48 hours, each team was divided two parts: one was a video making group and another to distribute the content on social media. Based on a number of views, share and comments, the winner will be released. The team that initially seemed to have won managed to gather more impressions on social media, but they did not adhere to the rules, leading the judges to deduct points from their score. Consequently, my team emerged as the winner. As a result, three other candidates were eliminated from the show.

Stage 7: Candidates’ Strengths

After several team challenges, the candidates were now able to showcase their personal strengths in the debate task. Despite the rule dividing the twelve candidates into four teams, each participant still had to assume a specific role within their respective team, making it resemble more of an individual task. Following two stages of debate, the professional judges announced the names of the four candidates eliminated, leaving only eight remaining for the show.

Stage 8: Role Playing

The final stage involved portraying the roles of the President and Prime Minister of Mongolia to deliver speeches to the parliament. Candidates underwent two training sessions to prepare and present their speeches. Some of the previously eliminated candidates became the audience this time, while the “eight Presidents and Prime Ministers” delivered their speeches in front of them. Based on the performances in the eight tasks, five finalists were selected and awarded prizes ranging from 20 to 100 million tugrugs. The winner was Lkhagvabayar, a 23-year-old secretary of the Social Democracy Student Union from the Mongolian People’s Party.


As a newcomer to politics, participating in the TV show was a long, challenging, and fascinating journey for me. Learning about grassroots politics within party institutions and various professional initiatives across different sectors was particularly intriguing. Despite legal limitations that confine election campaigns to two weeks, in reality, campaigning is a perpetual and ongoing process that never rests, becoming part of everyday life. After the show, I received several offers to become a candidate for the upcoming election or to work for political parties. However, none of them seemed appealing to me because of their political ideology and agendas.  Nonetheless, some candidates from the show transitioned into becoming “real candidates” for the election, with some even making it onto party lists. For example, the eighth-place runner, Yumjirmaa, holds the 34th place on the People’s Party list. Hurgul, a Kazakh woman, is a candidate from the Green Party in the Bayan-Olgii district, and Batbayar is running from the New United Coalition. Overall, the show effectively fulfilled its role in enhancing voter education and disseminating knowledge about the new amendments to the constitution.

About G Munkh-Erdene

Gantulga Munkh-Erdene is a PhD candidate in Geography at the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford. Also he serves as the Executive Secretary of the Mongolian Anthropological Association. Prior to joining Oxford, he held the position of Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, National University of Mongolia.

His research interests encompass the social life of artisanal gold miners, known as ninja miners, as well as nationalism, cultural heritage, globalization, capitalism, development, and mining in Mongolia. Munkh-Erdene has conducted extensive fieldwork in several provinces of Mongolia and China. Based on his participant observation, he has published over 20 book chapters and articles at both the national and international levels.

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
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