Presidential election candidates platform

By Bulgan B

The presidential election campaigning has ended officially on June 8 2021. The campaign lasted for ten days, and tomorrow, June 9th, we are likely to have a result or a likely decision on whether a second vote will be necessary as was the case in 2017.

Although late, I wanted to briefly survey each campaign platform on three main areas: Foreign Affairs and Military issues. According to the amendment to the constitution, the president would have a certain power in symbolic terms or executive terms (see article) over these three domains. Although judiciary is another area where previous President’s try to leverage power through appointments judges, prosecutors with the amendment to the constitution (Mongolia focus blogged extensively on it, please see here, and here for more information) the powers are restricted.

Before diving into the two categories, a short synopsis of the platforms is included below.

Right Person Electorate Coalition candidate D Enkhbat’s platform

Slogan/Motto: Do not include their campaign slogan. Their campaign slogan was “Mongolia can” – or “Mongolia is able” (See Marissa’s article for slogans for details and nuances).

General Summary: Compared to the other two candidates’ platforms, D Enkbat’s platform is only half as long, only seven pages. The platform includes a short introductory paragraph where it makes reference to Mongolia’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030. The platform continues with nine sections that are named as a declaration: [I] Shall be a President that:

  1. Enables unity, justice and equity.
  2. Protects national security and independence.
  3. Supports education policy that is based on sophisticated/developed systems and leading technology.
  4. Strengthens parliamentary democracy and human rights.
  5. Supports (pro) environment and sustainable development.
  6. Supports a sustainable economy that ensures innovation, free and healthy competition.
  7. Prioritizes national interests, and meets international standards, and respects foreign relations that are equal (balanced).
  8. Cherishes healthy Mongolians and Mongolian future.
  9. Rely on the citizen, not on any interest groups.

Democratic Party candidate S Erdene’s platform

Slogan/Motto: A country that respects individual rights – was the slogan for the platform. The campaign however used “Mongolia without Dictatorship” (see Marissa’s entry on slogans).

General Summary: The platform is 14 pages long, and has six sections. The introduction section includes references to “respecting the parliamentary governance”, “foreign policy that targets third neighbours” and reviving Democratic Mongolia. The intro section includes four bullet points declare to strengthen:

  • Mongolia’s foundational/root interests,
  • Mongolian’s human rights, and freedom,
  • Private property and economic rights and
  • Rule of law, and just government.

The six main sections are:

  1. National unity – Democratic governance
  2. Mongolian – Mongolian ethnos
  3. Foreign Relations – Neutrality policy
  4. Defence
  5. National Security
  6. Others

Mongolian People’s Party candidate U Khurelsukh’s platform

Slogan/Motto: The platform did not include its campaign slogan as part of the platform. U Khurelsukh’s campaign slogans are: “Owners of your wealth” and “Let’s serve/strive for Mongolia”  (see Marissa’s article for more). However, each subsection had motto/slogans or vignettes included that are different than the general campaign slogans.

General Summary: The length of the platform was the same as S Erdene’s, 14 pages long. The platform is divided into three main sections and each section has three subsections. The main sections are 1. Justice, 3. Unity and 3. Development. Below are the sections/subsections.

  1. Justice includes 1.1. Responsible Government – Just society, 1.2. Inclusive economy (not quite the translation – Иргэндээ хүртээмжтэй эдийн засаг) – fair distribution (of wealth). 1.3. National heritage and values to cherish.
  2. Unity includes 2.1. National unity to prioritize and protect, 2.2. National foundational/root interests and security, 2.3. A foreign policy to lead us to development.
  3. The development includes 3.1. Mongolian – Mongolian wealth, 3.2. Green Development – Mongolian Future; 3.3. Rural and Urban – Developmental Balance (equity).

Candidates’ stand on Foreign Affairs issues

The powers of the president on foreign affairs are limited.  Following three are the general areas of responsibility and rights:

  1. President holds power to represent Mongolia in foreign relations and can establish international contracts on behalf of Mongolia based on discussion with the parliament.
  2. President appoints and recalls ambassadors to other countries based on discussion with the parliament.
  3. President receives a letter of credence and recall of foreign heads of diplomatic missions.

Candidates have expressed their agenda on the first items – where they focus to improve relationships with the third neighbours and continue to respect the friendly relationships with the two neighbours.

The language/tone much differed between MPP ruling party candidate Khurelsukh and the other two candidates. U Kurelsukh’s language has not considered the limitations of the Presidential powers – and proposed implement activities. On the other hand, candidate D Enkhbat’s platform appeared general and S Erdene’s platform also struggled to remain within the established boundaries of the presidential powers.

D Enkhbat: Section 7. [I] shall be a President that prioritizes national interests, and meets international standards, and respects foreign relations that are equal (balanced).

Proposes to abide by the National Security Concept Paper as well as the Third Neighbour Policy and develop foreign relations policy that will support the joint implementation of big/mega projects. He also included friendly economic relations with the two neighbours China and Russia.

In terms of impact, will continue to advocate Mongolia as a centre for international dialogue, discussion and high-level meeting platform through active participation in the international community initiatives.

He includes that awareness and understanding of the existing economic structure, barriers, dependence and vulnerability and asserts that he will not tamper with the existing ecosystem (read the influence of China and Russia).  At the same time, he proposes to focus on mitigating these challenges and improve immunity and support a self-relied economy.

Domestically, he proposes to improve public servant’s knowledge, skills and capacity in the foreign relations area.

S Erdene: Section 3. Foreign Relations – Neutrality policy

Also, continue to respect the two neighbours and will improve the relationship with the third neighbours. He mentions the USA, UK, Japan, EU, India, Korea and Turkey – as examples of countries that he would pursue to strengthen the third neighbour policy. Also, his platform proposes to improve the “strategic bilateral relations” to “comprehensive bilateral relations” with the USA and Japan.

On the two neighbours, the platform proposes that S. Erdene will hold a trilateral meeting of Russia, China and Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar – and will have a balanced, flexible and pragmatic policy in dealing with the neighbours.

Some specific action items included are:
-eliminate the Schengen visa for Mongolians by 2027;
-firmly support the goal of a peaceful solution to the Korean Peninsula issue and
-becoming an exporter to the Asian transport and energy networks (roads, airways, railways, etc.).;
-will work to have the parliament approve the initiatives on open/free zone to attract international investment in technology, industry and environment;
-work to include the participation of journalists in the peacekeeping missions;
-integrate into Asian transportation routes (road, railroad and air routes);
-one window policy for Economy and Foreign Relations;
-establish a new council foreign relations promotion (Гадаад харилцааны сурталчилгааны)under the President;
-work to open branches of international organizations, such as UN-affiliated organizations on human rights and education.

U Khurelsukh: Section 2.3. A foreign policy to lead us to development.

Similar to the other two candidates, the continued relationship with the two neighbours and improve outcomes from the engagement with the third neighbour. Compared to the other two candidates, the language shows the tone that I will get it done despite the fact that President’s power is limited.

He has specific sections on the international reputation of Mongolia, UN participation, foreign investment to help development, strong Mongolian passport (increase visa-free countries twofold), health diplomacy (pandemic related policy – nothing specific), cultural diplomacy and improving the capacity of the diplomatic missions as well as the officials.

Candidates’ stand on Military issues

The president is the Chief of the General Staff of the Mongolian Armed Forces and is the head of the National Security Council (Prime Minister and Speaker are members).

The powers that the president holds as the Chief of General Staff and Armed Forces raises certain concerns as it is a big power – and incumbent president Kh. Battulga and MPP candidate U Khurelsukh – directly and indirectly, make references to use the power of the military. Regarding the Head of the National Security Council – this is a consultative body – not an executive body.

D Enkhbat: Section 2 [I] Shall be a President that protects national security and independence.

Enkhbat made references to independence, territory and borders, unity, human rights, parliamentary democracy, corruption, ethics in the national security sections. There were two paragraphs (subsections) 2.6 and 2.7 explicitly referenced defence policy and defence sector, and reference to the armed forces is that he will work to support strategic, scientific and technologically enabled resources for the armed forces. On defence, he says he will continue to support the existing policy and will intensify the reform of the sector.

S Erdene: Section 4. Defence and Section 5. National Security

Section for 4. The candidate proposes that as the Chief of the Armed Forces – will initiate “Strong and Fast Army” and within the first 100-days in the office will implement “Military Police”. He will establish the International Centre of Peacekeeping in Mongolia, through it will attract investment to establish hospital engineering, infrastructure and advanced technology. In addition create student-soldier for professions in computing, mathematics and physics – to help with the non-traditional cyber units.

Followings are activities proposed in this section as well:

  • establish a special unit (and its resources) to prevent cyber threats,
  • implement policy to a couple professional army and citizen protection,
  • improve modernize the conscripted soldiers program, and implement emergency management to military units;
  • initiate a law that creates a body that prevents (and fights) and is able to respond to non-traditional security threats (pandemic, cyber attack, disinformation)

In section 5. National Security – The DP candidate included wide compassing issues, such development/maturity of political parties, party’s financial transparency, poverty, natural resource wealth distribution, energy, nomadic animal husbandry, climate change, water issues, bio-safety and reforming of the religious institutions.

As the head of the National Security Council – he proposes three agendas that include submitting law to reform the roles and responsibilities, reform emergency structure and response through a participatory process and will prevent the President to express personal positions that concern the issues of independence and foreign policy.

Another major piece under the section is on “Corruption” – that he declares corruption as the “enemy” that threatens national security and he proposes the five initiatives.

  1. Disclosure of income sources of the senior public servants;
  2. Initiate law that voters can withdraw MPs from the parliament if they deceived voters and lost voters trust;
  3. Enable a legal environment where senior officials violate existing laws and legislation that ensures transparency;
  4. Improve the system where the political party’s financial information is public through participatory hearing, discussion and process.
  5. Educate the anti-corruption body, and create a legal environment to separate the criminal functions.

U Khurelsukh: Section 2.2.National foundational/root interests and Security 

On national security, U Khurelsukh proposed to implement  “Mongolian citizen’s security/safety”, “Economic security” and “Pharmaceutical and food security” programs.

Also, he proposes to have a “National security integrated database” – to strengthen the government’s institutional memory.

On defence, the platform has two sections, 1. Armed forces with integrated management and 2. Mongolian soldier – peacekeeping soldier. The Armed forces with integrated management section involve further reforming the legislation of the military and create integrated management for armed forces and other administrative management. The improvement of the border units/regiments and national emergency


Posted in Democratic Party, Judiciary, Military, Mongolia and ..., Mongolian People's Party, National Labor Party, Party Politics, Presidential 2021 | Tagged | Leave a comment

“First 100 Days In Office” from DP Program on Instagram

by Marissa J. Smith

S. Erdene, the Democratic Party candidate in the 2021 Presidential elections (just over one week away), has just (on the evening of June 1, 2021) posted excerpts from the official program on Instagram. I translate the posts below.

In summary, the proposals for candidate Erdene’s “first one hundred days in office” are draft laws. They include some that point to deficiencies in Mongolian democracy that often escape all but the most critical and close-grained analyses — that Mongolian journalists have often been subjected to libel and defamation laws, most lately with the criminalization of “dissemination of false information;” that many migrants to Ulaanbaatar are unable to access public services that they are entitled to as citizens, as they have been unable to register their residence since anti-air pollution measures came into place in 2017; and that many Mongolian lenders charge tremendously high amounts of interest as Mongolians continue to carry very high burdens of debt. A proposed draft law granting partial pension benefits on the death of a pensioner to households in cases “where the pensioner has lived with the household for a long time” also nods to the dire economic straits that many Mongolians find themselves in.

At the same time, it bears mentioning that many of the proposals are vague, and the particularly the ones aiming to increase “citizen’s participation” would be reduplicating existing legislation that has been characterized by implementation gaps.

[One of a series of posts from Эрдэнэ Содномзундуй (@erdene.sodnomzundui), June 1, 2021, translated below]


Submit a draft law to increase civilian control over military service.

(Create a new legal environment for the establishment of a new military police force under the General Staff of the Armed Forces, which will receive civil rights and complaints and enforce military discipline.)

Цэргийн албанд иргэний хяналтыг нэмэгдүүлэх хуулийн төслийг өргөн барина.

(Зэвсэгт хүчний жанжин штабын дэргэд иргэний эрх, гомдлыг хүлээн авдаг, армийн сахилга хариуцлагыг сахиулах эрх бүхий цэргийн цагдаагийн албыг шинээр байгуулах эрх зүйн орчныг бүрдүүлэх)


Submit an independent draft law clarifying the legal grounds in the case an elected or appointed high-ranking public official commits an ethical violation, legislating obligations to apologize to the public and for his or her  dismissal.

Сонгогдсон, томилогдсон төрийн өндөр албан тушаалтан нь ёс зүйн зөрчил гаргасан бол олон нийтээс уучлал гуйх үүргийг хуульчилж, түүнийг огцруулах, чөлөөлөх хууль эрх зүйн үндэслэлийг тодорхой болгох бие даасан хуулийн төсөл өргөн барина.


Submit a draft law to reform the civil service access system.

(Citizens can receive public services such as civil registration, social insurance, health care, and taxes, regardless of territorial or administrative unit)

Иргэний төрийн үйлчилгээ авах тогтолцоог шинэчлэх хуулийн төслийг өргөн барина.

(Иргэн нь иргэний бүртгэл, нийгмийн даатгал, эрүүл мэнд, татвар зэрэг төрийн үйлчилгээг нутаг дэвсгэр, засаг захиргааны нэгж харгалзахгүйгээр авах)


Submit a draft law on bag and khoroo management.

(A draft law on the equal participation of all citizens in nominating bag and khoroo governors to higher level governors and electing Citizen’s Representative Khural chairmen from the general population.)

Баг, хорооны удирдлагын талаарх хуулийн төслийг өргөн барина.

(Баг, хорооны Засаг даргыг дээд шатны Засаг даргад санал болгох, ИТХ-ын даргыг бүх иргэдийг тэгш оролцуулах үүднээс нийт иргэдээс сонгуулийн журмаар сонгох хуулийн төсөл)


Submit a draft law to protect freedom of the press.

(Increase the guarantees of press freedom, the so-called fourth estate of a democratic society, and abolish criminal liability for exercising freedom of the press)

Хэвлэлийн эрх чөлөөг хамгаалах хуулийн төслтийг өргөн барина.

(Ардчилсан нийгмийн дөрөвдөгч засаглал гэгдэх хэвлэлийн эрх чөлөөний баталгааг дээшлүүлж, хэвлэл мэдээллийн эрх чөлөөгөө эдэлсний төлөө эрүүгийн хариуцлага хүлээлгэдэг жишгийг хална)


The “right of citizens to ask questions” will be guaranteed, and a draft law will be submitted to each government organization to hold annual hearings on expenditure and operational reports for citizens, business entities and professionals.

“Иргэний асуулга асуух эрх”-ийг баталгаажуулж, төрийн байгууллага бүр жил бүр иргэд, салбарын ажахуйн нэгж, мэргэжилтнүүдэд хөрөнгө зарцуулалтын болон үйл ажиллагааны тайлангийн сонсгол хийдэг байх хуулийн төслийг өргөн барина.


Draft law on collective pensions.

(With the enactment of the Collective Pension Law, which was repealed in 2017, the old-age pension will be inherited at a rate of 50-100 percent in the event of the death of a family member who has lived with [a household] for many years.)

Хамтын тэтгэврийн тухай хуулийн төсөл.

(2017 Оноос хэрэгжиж эхлэх байсан ч хүчингүй болгосон Хамтын тэтгэврийн тухай хууль хэрэгжиж эхэлснээр олон жил хамт амьдарсан гэр бүлийн гишүүдийн нэг нь нас барсан тохиолдолд өндөр насны тэтгэвэр нь 50-100 хувиар тооцож өвлөгдөн үлддэг болно.)


These posts are somewhat different from the exact content in the official program. The items as reproduced on Instagram are in a different order, and the program also includes:

8. Төрийн тод байдлыг сайжруулах хуулийн төсөл (Ил тод байдал, олон нийтийн хяналт нь авлигаас урьдчилан сэргийлэх хамгийн чухал хөшүүрэг гэж үзэн Шилэн дансны тухай хууль, мэдээллийн ил тод байдал, мэдээлэл авах эрхийн тухай хууль тогтоомж зөрчсөн удирдах албан,тушаалтанд эрүүгийн хариуцлага хүлээлгэх)

Draft Law on Improving State Transparency (Considering transparency and public scrutiny as the most important incentives to prevent corruption, criminalize officials who violate the Glass Account Law, information transparency, and the right to information)

9. Зээлийн хүүгийн дээд хязгаар тогтоох тухай хуулийн төсөл (мөнгө хүүлэлтийн эсрэг, харилцагчийн эрх ашгийг хамгаалах олон улсын сайн жишигт нийцүүлэх)

Draft law on setting maximum interest rates (in line with good international standards against money laundering and consumer protection)

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Untold Blogpost Episode 8: Everyone Has the Right to Learn

By Mendee Jargalsaikhan

Our guest today is Ms. Munkhzul.D, a principal of the 263rd public kindergarten in Songino Khairkhan district of the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. After graduating from the Mongolian State University of Education in 2011, this kind-hearted lady works passionately with the children. In this podcast, she shared her experience of welcoming a child with cerebral palsy – a group of disorders affecting a child’s ability to move and maintain the balance – into her kindergarten.

Welcoming a Mom and a Child with Disability

As the newly built kindergarten was preparing to open, a mother with a three-year-old boy came by and asked whether it was possible to get her child enrolled in this kindergarten. Munkhzul recalled that moment when she immediately put herself in that mom’s shoes. Since the inclusive educational environment was already legalized, the child’s residency belongs to her kindergarten’s coverage zone, and kindergarten teachers already have been taught at university how to teach children with disabilities, she decided to accept the boy. Moreover, she hired his mom as an assistant teacher because she had all the qualifications for the job. Then, through World Vision, she began to work with Doctor Narantsetseg of the Mongolian National University of Medical Science and specialists of the Development Centre for Children with Disabilities. Furthermore, she set up a support team, which consisted of classroom teacher, an assistant teacher, a kindergarten doctor, a nurse, and his mom. According to the initial assessment, the boy’s linguistic and mobility level was at the level of a two-year-old child although he was actually three years old. Since the child lives with his mom and his brother, and could not enroll in any kindergarten before, he did not have much social interactions – which is a key element to assess a child’s level of disability. Following the assessment, the support team developed a plan and worked together to help the boy.

Photo: The boy in the Rehabilitation Center for Children with Disabilities in Mongolia(with the permission of Munkhzul)

Initial Challenges

The most immediate challenge was posed by the attitudes of other parents and his classmates. Even though the disability is not an infectious disease, parents were asking why their children were studying with a disabled child and, some even wanted to change their children’s class. The principal and teachers tried to explain this to other parents, but some of them were slow to change their attitude. Classmates, as Munkhzul recalls, were first surprised of the boy’s difference, why he could not walk, and talked strangely. So, the teachers decided to show an animated movie about children with disabilities. She said watching animated movie is one of the best methods to explain things for kindergartners. After four months, his classmates’ attitudes began to change. Some wanted to help him brush his teeth, go to washroom, and get a toy. Others played with him. So, the boy began to lose his shyness through these social interactions. There were noticeable improvements in his speech. However, his mom, who works as an assistant teacher, comes early in the morning by piggybacking her child into class and leaves after everyone has left. As Munkhzul explains, she does not want to get her child hurt when someone says something bad. One time, an elderly man called her child spoiled – as his mom carried him because he cannot walk. However, the elder man did not know the boy was suffering from cerebral palsy and his mom did not want to explain.

Photo: The children of the kindergarten (with the permission of Munkhzul)

Work with and Listen to Kindergarten Teachers

In the public kindergarten, a teacher and assistant work with about 30-35 children. Despite excessive workload, kindergarten teachers are experienced to observe each child and always seek ways to help children learn. Here, particularly when working with a child with disability, the parental collaboration and feedback is most important. If a child’s disability is diagnosed as early as possible, teachers and parents can work together to help the child develop certain skills and teach how to socialize with other children. There are two types of parents, as Munkhzul explains, one is like the woman who tirelessly seeks all possible ways to work with teachers and specialists, but there are other ones who do not want to accept the fact that their child has some type of disability. And she shared her past experiences as working as a teacher. After she noticed a child could not draw properly, especially when using colours. So, she asked her mom, a well-educated lady, to have her child diagnosed by specialists along with her kindergarten doctor. But on the next day, the husband blamed her for discriminating his child and complained to the principal for mistreating his child. It took almost a year for these parents to have their child diagnosed, who then needed to have some assistive glasses. If they had followed the teacher’s suggestion a year earlier, it would have been much better for the child. Also, there are some other parents who bring their child in the beginning of the school year in September; however, they do not realize the kindergarten needs to prepare to accommodate a child with disability, because every disability is different. This would help the kindergarten staff to develop a specific training and evaluation program, which is tailored for that child. Therefore, parents should visit the kindergarten in the spring and collaborate with the kindergarten for the next school year.

Photo: Munkhzul with her colleagues (with the permission of Munkhzul)

Psychological Counselling and Early Diagnosis

According to Munkhzul’s observations, parents with disabled children experience two types of challenges. The first is to deal with the psychological and mental hardship. In most cases, men are more likely to abandon their children and mothers stay with their children. Or, even if both parents stay together, mostly mothers stay home to take care of their child with disability. Single parents with disabled kids could not work, which further leads them to be isolated from social interactions. Thus, they become more stressed and sensitive. Therefore, these parents are in greater need of counselling, coaching, and even talking with people who understand their problems and help them find ways to overcome the mental hardship. The other is to improve the early diagnosing. For example, a woman, who brought her child to Munkhzul’s kindergarten, spent almost three years trying to get a proper diagnosis. All specialists gave her a different diagnosis; as a result, she did not get social welfare benefits for taking care of her son, nor subsidies for her son’s medical services and assistive device (walking aid for a child with cerebral palsy). If the doctors had diagnosed her child properly as earlier, she would have gotten some financial assistance and her son would have received the right medical treatment and rehabilitation.

Photo: a teacher and children of the kindergarten during a class (with the permission of Munkhzul)

Impacts of COVID-19

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been tremendous on kindergarten children, as explained by our earlier guests, disabled children develop more when they are in social interactions. Despite this difficulty, Munkhzul and her teachers spent more time on professional development. For example, they had a two-day workshop with Ms Kimiko – a Japanese kindergarten teacher working in Mongolia.

The Untold podcast and blog post are made available by the generous support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Mongolia. We also want to thank our editor Riya Tikku.

Posted in Education, Mendee Jargalsaikhan, People with Disabilities, Podcast, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Presidential Campaign Slogans

By Marissa J. Smith and Julian Dierkes

Obviously, election campaigns are not entirely defined by campaign slogans. Nevertheless, slogans are a shorthand how candidates and parties are trying to present themselves, so we hope that a brief discussion of slogans might be of interest.

2020 parliamentary election campaign slogans

Here is a tweet tile summarizing the three presidential candidates’ slogans:

It’s a bit odd that has chosen a masked photo for Enkhbat, but not for Erdene or Khurelsukh, but that would be a different topic.

All three candidates have included “Mongol,” which may mean the country of Mongolia [Монгол Улс], the nation(ality) of Mongolians [Монгол ард түмэн], and also refer to individual Mongolian persons [Монгол хүн]. This obviously makes it an especially useful campaign term, and it was realized to great effect by Battulga.


Khurelsukh is using two slogans, #МонголУлсынТөлөөЗүтгэе and #БаялагтааЭзэнМонгол. He is also touting a program called “Шударга Ёс-Хөгжлийн Гэрээ.”

These are all terms that are probably recognizable, if not familiar, to anyone who has considered Mongolian political speech.

While both including Монгол à la Battulga, these are much longer slogans, and include formal and somewhat traditionally-coloured terms, in contrast to Battulga’s use of “winning” (which probably also referenced Trump).

The first is “Let’s strive for Mongolia,” зүтгэх being a verb that is often found in socialist as well as contemporary political speech, having the flavour of collective, but directed action (i.e., by the party or enterprise management).

The second is “Mongolia/Mongolians are the Owners of Their Wealth.” Though баялаг refers specifically to mineral resources, it is related to the abstract term for wealth or value, баян, used in many formal, ceremonial, and ritual contexts (for example, it is an element of many place names). Эзэн is a term for a political-economically effective sovereign that operates across a huge spectrum, and can refer to Chinggis Khaan (often referred to as Эзэн Чингис; “empire” is эзэн гүрэн), the head of a household or herding group (the эзэн of a ger or an ail, including herd animals), and the sovereign entity or force, sometimes represented anthropomorphically or zoomorphically, associated with parts of the landscape, particularly mountains, which must be properly respected by humans also inhabiting and extracting flora, fauna, and minerals from the landscape that “belong to” and are replenished by the эзэн. With this slogan, Khurelsukh is no doubt referencing the MPP-led government’s recent efforts to renegotiate the OT agreement and issue new TT bonds, and also the number of large industrial projects that he has been naming in his program (“The Agreement for Justice and Development”), which include oil production, natural gas pipeline(s), and steel production, and which the MPP has been loudly talking about for some time now.


The DP is using #ДарангуйлалгүйМонгол as its slogan.

In the end, we settled on “Mongolia without Dictatorship” as the best translation, though Anand offered “Mongolia without Oppression” as an alternative.

Etymologically related to дарангуйлал are дарах (“to press,” as in “a button”), and даралт (“pressure,” including referring to air pressure and blood pressure). “Oppression” makes a lot of sense as a translation of “дарангуйлал.” However, “dictatorship” also carries across how дарангуйлал is specifically associated with a particular leader, be it Tsedenbal, or, as seems obvious in this case, Khurelsukh, and also Battulga. And possibly also former MP Altankhuyag, who was put forward by the second wing of the DP (which includes all 13 DP members of Parliament) but refused registration.

Again however, this language is following Battulga who ignited the language of “дарангуйлал” when he issued his ban on the MPP and accused Khurelsukh of “militarism.”


Speaking of “igniting,” KhUN has used used novel political language in their slogan #НийгэмдээГэрэлАсаацгаая

Rather than the “state” or “nation,” they invoke “society,” and rather than pushing them to “awake” (сэргэх) and carry out a predetermined path, they use the term for “to kindle, ignite,” which stimulates associations with creativity and innovation.

KhUN has also riffed off of Battulga’s slogan with #МонголЧадна, but without bogging the slogan down with unnecessary syllables or accusatory 1 million tugrug words. Чадах is one of the first words that anyone learning the Mongolian language learns and one that forms a fundamental part of any Mongolian language user’s vocabulary, and means “to be able to.” The slogan nicely carries tones of success and achievement, without the dogwhistling implications of there being enemies or losers, as Battulga’s (and Trump’s) slogan did.

Posted in Democratic Party, Elections, Mongolian People's Party, National Labor Party, Politics, Presidential 2021 | Tagged | Leave a comment

Shifts in Voting Behaviour

By Julian Dierkes

Much of election-day exit poll analysis in Germany focuses on “Wählerwanderung”, i.e. voter migration. That requires pretty good and representative data to do, something that has never quite been possible in Mongolia. That secret poll data that political parties always seem to be operating with is also unlikely to really make this kind of analysis possible. So, I speculate on the basis of having watched many Mongolian elections. Here, I want to speculate about party allegiances, possibly adding or collaborating on another post that would look at demographic movements.

I suppose that Mongolian voters have five options:

  • Vote U Khurelsukh, nominated by MPP
  • Vote S Erdene, nominated by “DP”
  • Vote D Enkhbat, nominated by Зөв хүн электорат coalition
  • Cast a blank ballot, i.e. don’t mark any of the candidates
  • Don’t vote

Committed Party Supporters

As in any election, political parties will count on some portion of the electorate who are committed party supporters and will vote for a party nominee regardless of who that is.

But there are actually some complicated questions even around this committed core of party support for this election.


Here, the picture seems clearest. The MPP has around 220,000 members and there is no obvious reason to think that the vast majority of these members will not be actively supporting Khurelsuhk as the MPP candidate.

Yes, there are factions in the MPP (note for example the relative demise of the City faction that supported 2017 presidential candidate M Enkhbold whose support within the MPP was not enthusiastic four years ago), but it seems like Khurelsukh has been fairly firmly in charge of the party through his terms as prime minister and especially his big win in last year’s parliamentary election. But M Enkhbold is not the only example of less-than-enthusiastic MPP support. The most glaring example (certainly in his own mind) was N Enkhbayar in 2009 who felt so betrayed by the party that he spun off his own party. The MPRP seems to have re-united with the MPP for now, but…


In some ways MPRP voters have seemed the most fiercely loyal in the past decade, following N Enkhbayar through his trial, conviction and various combinations of candidates. Now, the MPRP seems to have re-merged into the MPP. Should we expect MPRP stalwarts to follow this merger and vote for Khurelsukh?

My guess is that the vast majority of committed MPRP members (just over 30,000) will vote for Khurelsukh. Somewhat oddly (to me), Enkhbayar does seem to have a very loyal following and this re-merger seems to have his blessings. I suspect that Khurelsukh is also a relatively attractive candidate for many MPRP supporters. With his Khentii connections and power base he seems country-side rooted. He is also portraying himself as a bit of a traditionalist.

And here, the obligatory mounted photo:

The twist? S Ganbaatar as the MPRP’s candidate in 2017 received significantly more than then MPRP’s committed core’s votes, his 30.6% nearly equalling M Enkhbold’s share in the first round in 2017. In 2020, Та бидний эвсэл (Our Coalition that MPRP participated in) won 8% of the national vote. Assuming that this also included some swing voters, the overall potential of committed MPRP voters might thus be on the order of 70,000 or so (5% of the 1,475k voters who participated in the 2020 election).

As an aside, note that the Our Coalition included the Civil Will Green Party, the very party that D Enkhbat represented in the 2008-12 parliament.

So, Ganbaatar massively outperformed and was largely supported by non-committed MPRP voters.

Ganbaatar Voters

What will happen to these Ganbaatar voters? The motivation to support Ganbaatar was probably four-fold: MPRP support, anti-MPP desire to balance political forces, personal support for Ganbaatar, frustration with Enkhbold and Battulga as options. On MPRP support, see above, a small portion of the electorate. On personal support for Ganbaatar, while this seemed to be common among Ulaanbaatar taxi drivers…

I probably never quite understood his appeal, but Ganbaatar has now been a member/figure in all four parties currently in parliament. Not a whole lot of political credibility there. I haven’t noticed that he’s actually endorsed S Erdene as a candidate, but I doubt that there is much loyalty among his erstwhile 2017 voters that would “follow” him to support Erdene.

That desire to counter-balance an MPP-dominated parliament with a president from another party will be one of the main dynamics in this election. To the extent that this also motivated many of Ganbaatar’s voters, these votes will almost certainly not migrate to the MPP but instead have to choose between Erdene and Enkhbat to make themselves heard.

The overall frustration with the lack of choices may be significantly lower this time. Khurelsukh is probably a less unattractive candidate than M Enkhbold was, though Erdene seems no more attractive than Kh Battulga was. On the other hand, Enkhbat does represent a genuine alternative given his nomination by KhUN and his own political trajectory.


The DP has been in a very unhealthy spiral for some years now. The embarrassing spectacle around the control of the party seal is only the most recent manifestation of that unhealthy spiral. Longtime leaders like Lu Bold spinning off in 2020 or strange new recruits like S Ganbaatar joining (see above) are not a sign of personnel renewal, but a lack of focus and identity. And, in the meantime, the party remains dominated by the “golden sparrows” of original democracy activists who were young in 1990, but are no longer young nor fresh in 2021.

There are too many factions in the DP for me to really try to attempt to assign Battulga supporters to Erdene, or not, so my best guess would be to think that a significantly smaller portion of the roughly 150,000 DP members will be DP voters than the portion of MPP voters that will support Khurelsukh.

Yet, the DP remains the main contended and even a relatively unattractive candidate like Battulga managed to parlay that rival-to-the-MPP status into a successful election run in 2017. As unattractive a candidate as Erdene seems, I did underestimate that anyone-but-MPP potential in 2017 and thus assume that Erdene might yet collect a largely portion of that potential. If we think of Ganbaatar + Battulga vote shares in 2017 then that was nearly 70% of voters in the first round in 2017! Disregarding voter demographics and assuming some stable voter behaviour (counter the very thrust of this blog post) that would imply that Khurelsukh would have to win the support of roughly 1/3 of the voters who supported non-Enkhbold choices in 2017. That seems like a tall order, even for a relatively more attractive candidate.


The National Labour Party does not really have a stable support base. It garnered just over 200,000 (5%) in the 2020 parliamentary election. Some of those voters may have supported specific KhUN candidates in the parliamentary election, but it seems reasonable to assume that most of them would also support Enkhbat as a candidate given how widespread support for him within KhUN seems to be.

Blank Ballot

What about the “white voters”? In the second round of the 2017 election, 8% of voters who turned out did not mark their ballot presumably registering their protest against the choice between Enkhbold and Battulga. That’s almost 100,000 voters. While some of them might have been within-party opposition to the two candidates, it seems fair to assume that the vast majority of these voters will support Enkhbat in part because their effort in actually casting a blank suggests that they are committed voters and will turn out again. I don’t quite see a rationale for casting a blank ballot in an election where Enkhbat does seem to represent a genuine alternative.

The numbers of white ballots might increase significantly if Khurelsukh and Erdene face off in a second round, a situation that would be similar to 2017 and does not seem impossible. For a second round, all kinds of allegiances would shift around in any case.


And then there are the 31.5% (first round) and 39.5% (second round) of voters who did not vote in 2017 or the 26.5% who did not vote in 2020. I do not have evidence nor a strong intuition of the percentage of those who are committed non-voters, i.e. those who are very unlikely to vote in this year’s election. Presumably, these are the politically disenchanted or those for whom travel to a polling station is too inconvenient. Perhaps also some of the infirm who do not request a mobile ballot box. For those non-voters who see voting is too much of a burden, it seems unlikely that this year’s election will be different. Will one of the three candidates somehow rouse the disenchanted out of their political passivity to cast a ballot? That does not seem likely for Khurelsukh or Erdene with the possible exception of some regional support. Enkhbat? Well, if his campaign develops some momentum and makes a credible claim at a “different kind of politics”, perhaps. But in the end, it might be easier to persuade some swing voters to support Enkhbat, than to lure non-voters out of their gers.


Any predictions that come out of this consideration of possible voter migration? Well, even though Khurelsukh seems the obvious favourite in this election, I did make myself think about the over 900,000 voters who voted against Enkhbold in the first round in 2017 and how many of those voters Khurelsukh would have to persuade to support him to reach a majority in the first round.

And, Enkhbat has a steep hill to clime with his “start” of only the voters who cast a blank ballot as a likely committed voter base.

Posted in Democratic Party, Elections, Mongolian People's Party, Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, National Labor Party, Party Politics, Presidential 2017, Presidential 2021, Protest | Tagged | Leave a comment

Untold Blogpost Episode 7: Create Your Own Future

By Mendee Jargalsaikhan

Our guest Sambuudanzan Ganzorig lives in Arkhangai Aimag, approximately 430 kilometers away from the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. He is the President of the Federation of Associations of People with Disabilities in Arkhangai Aimag. Sambuudanzan is also a renowned athlete with two gold medals from the Para Athletics Grand Prix in 2013 (Beijing, PRC), a silver medal from the Asia-Oceania Championship 2016 (Dubai, UAE) and a national record holder for shot-put and discus throw in national parasports championships. Moreover, he coaches Arkhangai’s weight and powerlifters while running a fitness club.


Competing in para sport events, he is well-travelled and inspired many to exercise and compete in national paralympics and the Paralympic Games. Today it is not a surprise for the Mongolian weightlifting community to see athletes from Arkhangai Aimag coached by a person in a wheelchair. Sambuudanzan agreed to share his insights on people with disabilities, on running non-governmental organizations, and, of course, on sports in the countryside.

Photo: Sambuudanzan winning a medal from Para Games (with the permission of Sambuudanzan)

People with Disability in the Countryside

‘Getting information is not a problem in the countryside, especially in the aimag center,’ said Sambuudanzan, ‘but the infrastructure accessibility is a major challenge.’ People who live in the aimag center have more opportunities than those who live in the soum centers or in the countryside. At the aimag center, people with disabilities can go to the local administration, stores, services, and obtain needed information. In contrast, those in remote areas lack these types of opportunities. For them, it is even difficult to come to a regular social benefit qualifying meeting in the aimag center. It is a requirement for people with disabilities to meet with experts in order to qualify or to continue receiving their benefits on a regular basis. Because of remoteness and lack of information, people with disabilities do not know their rights, or even do not have control over their welfare benefits. Sambuudanzan stressed the importance of the education of people with disabilities for understanding their basic rights to protect their rights. However, in the countryside, parents usually decide not to send their disabled child to school. Schools in aimag and soum centers do not have accessible roads, washrooms and/or lifts for disabled children. To have their children enrolled in the school, one of the parents, or both, has to accompany their child to the aimag or soum center. But many choose to send their healthy child to school and tend their cattle with their disabled child in the countryside. This prevents the disabled person to get an education and to reach self-empowerment. Self-empowerment is the most important aspect for people with disabilities to protect their rights and change their attitudes, as our guest repeated throughout the podcast.

Employment in Aimag versus Soum

Disabled people encounter similar challenges: those who live in aimag centers have more opportunities to get employed if their degree of disabilities is lower or lighter. There are some opportunities for disabled people to be included in projects or to do government contracting jobs. However, at the soum level, there are fewer employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Many simply help their herding families since they have no other choices.

To provide employment opportunities, the government provides financial assistance for disabled people to make handcrafts and gifts. According to Sambuudanzan, this is not working in all local contexts. The gift-making is seasonal and different in regions and aimags depending on the development of the tourism industry. Instead, the government could support businesses with potential markets. For example, in a soum center, a person who repairs cellphones could serve for 40-50 households. Or another example could be a photo studio for passport and ID photos. These are jobs could be done easily by disabled people.

Then, we talked about the new amendment of the Law on Labour. The new amendment requires any business entity with 25 employees or more to hire one disabled employee, or, to pay the penalty to contribute to the employment fund for disabled people. This would not be applicable here, as Sambuudanzan explained, because there are very few businesses with more than 25 employees in the aimag center. All businesses in soum centers are much smaller. At the same time, the enforcement of this law is weak. There is a no clear mechanism for non-governmental organizations to monitor the fund. Echoing with our earlier guests, Sambuudanzan emphasized the creation of modified employment positions requiring less assistance from others for disabled people to work.

Non-Governmental Organizations in the Countryside

In 2012, all individual disability associations in Arkhangai aimag agreed to unite under the umbrella organization, Federation of Associations of People with Disabilities, to deal with the provincial government effectively and to unify their efforts to reach out to the society. The president of the federation would be elected for a three-year term. This unification made non-governmental organizations stronger than before, especially in dealing with the Governor and Citizens’ Representatives’ Khural, a local council. As Sambuudanzan explains, now the federation is working to develop a five-year strategy and action plan.

This idea of a federation was initially supported by the Finnish Lutheran Overseas Mission (FLOM) – a non-governmental humanitarian organization. To give information about the background here, the FLOM has been operating in Mongolia since early 1990s and supports the local, grass-root, humanitarian non-governmental organizations with the Finnish government funds. Now the Federation will work with ‘Tegsh Tusgal’, a local non-governmental organization that was founded in May 2019. Interestingly, Sambuudanzan stresses that his federation and member associations are now in charge of the agenda-setting for the next four years. The Tegsh Tusgal would provide only technical and financial assistance for the federation to carry out their plans. 

Photo: Sambuudanzan in Arkhangai aimag (with the permission of Sambuudanzan)

Although opportunities are limited, Sambuudanzan sounded positive about the changing attitudes of the provincial administration. Instead of organizing ad-hoc demonstrations or protests, our guest emphasized that he is being part of the policy-making process starting from a bag (the lowest administrative unit in a soum) to soum and to aimag authority. In that way, the policies toward people with disabilities have a long-term effect.

Unlike non-governmental organizations in Ulaanbaatar, where almost all funding agencies operate and accessibility to networks with experts is a given, non-governmental organizations in the countryside lack the capacity and resources. They are all volunteer-based and just following their inspirations and passions.

Photo: Sambuudanzan with his young athlete students (with the permission of Sambuudanzan)


After a tragic accident in 2002, he went through physiotherapy to be able to walk with a cane. As he walked through the aimag center, he felt people looking at him with pity and care. He did not seize to work hard – making huushuur (traditional food), driving trucks, and even carrying out handicraft project. One day, he heard about the National Paralympic Championship in Ulaanbaatar and convinced three other colleagues to participate in that championship. At that competition, he felt that he could compete in shot-put and discus throw. After setting up a team and preparing throughout 2009, a team of 12 athletes from Arkhangai province won the national Para-Athletic Championship of the following year. Since then, he participated in many competitions, including the Asian Para Games in Guangzhou. And he even won three medals in shot-put, discus throw, and javelin when competing in Japan; thus, he was inspired to train more intensively. Then, he began training young athletes for the national competitions of powerlifting and also weightlifting. Now during his free time, he coaches and provides opportunities for those who want to get into shape and bodybuilding at his fitness club. He proudly said that people now do not see him as a disabled person, but rather seek sporting advice from him, or see him as a role model for young athletes.

Covid-19 Impacts

Sharing similar insights about the severe impacts of Covid-19 on people with disabilities, Sambuudanzan described the difficulties for those who need regular medical check-ups and treatment. Two outstanding issues were also the loss or significant reduction of the household income and the increased domestic violence.

Photo: Sambuudanzan winning a medal from 2015 National Open Athletics Championships for Persons with Disabilities (with the permission of Sambuudanzan)

Listening to his candid and insightful conversation, we felt his courage, perseverance, and passion. He did recall the moment when people disparaged him pointing out that he had only fourth grade education as he was elected to become the president of the federation. But he did not give up. He continued his education and even received an MA in sports coaching. Despite many difficult periods, he stayed on course and followed the example of his dad and dedicated himself to his goal. He proudly said – that he has never been ashamed of who he is and lives happily today. His motto for people with disability: create your own fate and life because no one else will do it for you. At the end, our guest shared his two dreams: (1) to prepare leaders who work at the policy level for the federation in the next four years and (2) to see champions arising from his young athletes.

The Untold podcast and blog post are made available by the generous support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Mongolia. We also want to thank our editor Riya Tikku.

Posted in Civil Society, Countryside, Health, Mendee Jargalsaikhan, Olympics, People with Disabilities, Podcast, Sports | Tagged | Leave a comment

EIAS Talk: Political Transformations, Upcoming Presidential Election

I recently discussed Mongolia’s political trajectory toward the June 9 presidential election with Lin Goethals and Allesandra Tamponi at the European Institute for Asian Studies.

Posted in Democracy, Elections, International Relations, Party Politics, Politics, Presidential 2021, Video | Leave a comment

Untold Blogpost Episode 6: Do Not Stop at ‘CANNOT’, Focus on the ‘HOW’

By Mendee Jargalsaikhan

Before the pandemic, Ms. Kimiko used to travel to the ger district in a crowded bus to teach her students – who were all not in one place like kindergarten or school, but they waited for a kind-hearted Japanese teacher at their home. She doesn’t mind walking through impassible summer mud and the icy, slippery winter streets, nor the choking smog of burning coals and woods in the ger district. All she cares about is how to teach her students with disabilities and how to change the attitudes of their parents. Ms. Takahashi Kimiko came to Mongolia in 1998 for a two-year volunteer assignment as a kindergarten teacher and lived in the third largest city – Darkhan. Her passion of working with children brought her back to Mongolia in 2004 to work at a private kindergarten. In 2011, she established her own non-governmental organization to help children with disabilities. It was another touching podcast throughout which we felt her love for children and the unbending commitment to her dream of helping children with disabilities.

She Has Never Chosen Whom She Would Teach

The most challenging aspect of working in the development sector in Mongolia is to cope with excessive financial paperwork – she sighed – as she works alone. Otherwise, she likes to work in Mongolia. Even though there has been progress in increasing educational opportunities for children with disabilities, she pointed out there were a number of challenges. Teachers are not prepared to work with children with disabilities since they are already overwhelmed with 20-30 students per kindergarten classroom. There are private kindergartens, but it is not available for all disabled children. So, Kimiko san ventured out to help those who cannot go to kindergartens and schools – and she helps only those parents who allowed her to teach their children. In other words, she has never chosen whom she would teach depending on the location or level of disability. She insisted that she would never build or establish a kindergarten, or day care centre, because that is the job the Mongolian government should do. Therefore, she does not want to build a kindergarten or day care centre. She wants to work with a child when the parents are around. It seems to me that her key principle is to focus on the ‘can do’ and being creative about getting a child interested in learning, repeating, and experiencing with joy.

Just prior to the pandemic, she had 17 students – who live widely distributed in the city of 1.5 million population. In one day, she teaches three children, spending about an hour with each child. She said one hour is exactly enough and she does all her best to use that hour effectively. In winter days, she gets out of the ger district around 4 pm before it gets dark and prepares her lessons for the next day. In her teaching, she uses the same book for all children, for example, a well-known story of The Gigantic Turnip, but her teaching method would be different: there would be drawing or colouring activities for a child with Down syndrome, memorizing or speaking exercises for a child with intellectual disability, and concentration activities for an autistic child. And she proudly highlights that this is a mutual learning process for a child, the parents, and herself.

Photo: The books Kimiko san published (with the permission of Takahashi Kimiko)

How to Teach Children with Disabilities

Treat a child like an adult, not always in ‘evii evii’ style (Mongolian words often used to spoil little children). The most important task is to build trust. If someone is always critical or does not pay attention, a child knows and will not have a mindset for open communication and collaborative learning. Also, one must be interested – as in her words, if the mind moves, the body will follow. So, one must be creative when in comes to getting the child’s interested and triggering their curiosity. Throughout the podcast, she advises anyone who is working with a child with disabilities not to stop at ‘chadahgui’ (cannot do). If you do focus on ‘chadahgui’, you’ll end up with ‘odoo yanaa’ (a Mongolian phrase used to express in fear or uncertainty), and you cannot think about the future. Rather, you should carefully assess what your child can do and cannot do. Again, you need to be creative about getting your child interested. In this way, you can imagine a realistic future with your child, and help your child continue doing things that they are able to do or are interested in doing. Even if your child does not know the ABC (alphabet), there will always be something that he/she can do. Here, Kimiko san shared one of her projects. The project is named ‘goyo ireedui’ (nice future) – which helped parents with disabled children to think about the future together. This strikes us an important exercise for all of us to do together with our children – pondering together to construct our imagined future of the children, us, and the community – instead of acting as if we knew what is best for them. As Kimiko hinted, parents should help children to see different opportunities rather than imposing their options on them.

Photo: Kimiko san providing workshop (with the permission of Takahashi Kimiko)

Many Mongolian parents asked her why their kids do not speak and how to improve their speaking. So, in response, Kimiko san published a book with speech improvement exercises and teaching methods for Mongolian parents. We felt this book is a valuable book since it is based on her personal experience of learning the Mongolian language in her thirties and having worked with children over two decades.

Differences Between Japan and Mongolia

‘Zam’ (road, sidewalk in Mongolian) is a key difference between Japan and Mongolia. It is difficult not only for disabled people, but for everyone. Kimiko san shared her astonishment over the great balancing skills of Mongolians – on these uneven, often slippery (during the winter) roads and sidewalks. For all of us, it is hard to imagine how parents are struggling to navigate on these uneven, poorly maintained, slippery sidewalks with their disabled children. Otherwise, she thinks, there is no major difference between Japanese and Mongolian parents with disabled children. They share the same feelings and experience similar challenges. They are worried about the future of their children-though conditions and opportunities might be different.

This takes us back to the Mongolian situation. Parents who live in the soum (an administrative subdivision within the province) probably have limited access to a computer/internet and to experts whereas parents who live in the city may have more opportunities. Yes, indeed, one of our previous guests talked about the challenges for disabled people living in the ger district. Although they are in vicinity of the city, they experience similar challenges as those who live in the countryside. Regardless of their location or country, parents with disabled children face similar challenges and are wary of the future.

Photo: The books Kimiko san published (with the permission of Takahashi Kimiko)

Advice for Us – Mongolians

‘In Mongolia, people are very helpful and always ready to help. This is unique.’ Besides this praise, she wanted to share her critical view of us. People talk about many good ideas and demonstrate their eagerness to do something about these ideas. But soon, they stop answering their phones and disappear. It is as if when they talk, they look up the sky and imagine all good things, but they do not look down to their feet – or think critically about the implementation. So, it is important for anyone who wants to pursue their good ideas to have a detailed plan – with first, second, and third steps. If it does not work, take a little break, and then try to figure out the causes and find ways to move ahead. If you do, Kimiko san assures, the gradual improvement and success will follow.

As one thinks about continuous small improvement, things would already be improving. Here she pointed to one example. She liked a café – that employs adolescents with Down syndrome. To make things easier for customers and employees, the café could use a little check-box menu – on which customers can write their names and mark their orders. This would prevent any embarrassing situation between the customer and the employees with Down syndrome. It will increase the confidence of these young people who are eager to work.

This was another pleasant podcast – listening to a courageous, determined Japanese teacher, who is fluent in Mongolian and an expert of local bus routes. And she has a big heart, passion, and a dream of helping to change the attitudes of parents with disabled children. I felt her weeping inside – when she talked about how parents have changed as she showed how to work with their children with disabilities.

The Untold podcast and blog post are made available by the generous support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Mongolia. We also want to thank our editor Riya Tikku.

Posted in Education, Health, Human Rights, Japan, Mendee Jargalsaikhan, People with Disabilities, Podcast | Tagged | Leave a comment

Who is KhUN presidential candidate D. Enkhbat?

By Marissa J. Smith

With one party member in Parliament, the KhUN party has the right to register a candidate for the presidential elections on June 9, 2021. They announced on May 12 that D. Enkhbat would be the candidate.

On April 30, #Уухай! Clubhouse ran a conversation on Clubhouse and Facebook Live with Enkhbat, which was also transcribed and posted on Julian, Bulgan, and I collectively decided that it was a substantial conversation and merited an English-language summary for our readers.

This post describes and situates some of the questions and concerns brought by participants, as well as Enkhbat’s replies and comments. According to the Ikon transcript, the session lasted for four hours, and it appears that some questions were asked by prominent politicians from KhUN and the DP(s) (and formerly from the DP(s)), including Munkhsoyol and Oyungerel. Overall, the conversation reflected major concerns about Mongolian politics leading up to the Presidential elections articulated recently on the blog, particularly the concentration of power in the hands of a president, a single party, and/or the parliament.

During the session, Enkhbat touched repeatedly on the need for Mongolia to diversify its economy beyond mining, touting internet-based education. This is not surprising, given Enkhbat’s position as former CEO and founder of Datacom, which oversees the country code top-level domain “.mn,” and which operates with a commercial license according to Wikipedia. He was also asked about his part in translating Khan Academy  into Mongolian (which he said is intended to spur Mongolian-specific content creation by Mongolian educators) and his business development project, Karakorum Digital Academy.

Less well known may be Enkhbat’s past as a politician. He was, according to Alan Sanders’ Historical Dictionary of Mongolia (2017) the single MP from the Citizen’s Alliance (which included the Green Party, prior to it and Enkhbat’s union with S. Oyun’s Civil Will Party in 2011) in the 2008-2012 Ikh Khural and according to his LinkedIn profile, a “co-chair” of the Green Party from 2007-2011. One participant was quick to establish Enkhbat’s past with the audience, reminding it of Enkhbat’s “going to the meeting” while “other leaders watched TV at home” during the tumultuous post-election events of July 1, 2008. The interviewers in general did not hesitate to dive into his past, and also asked Enkhbat specific questions about his views on the future shape of Mongolia’s government, detailed below.

Institutions and Civic Participation

Enkhbat spoke about institutions and civic participation without prompting, and also responded to questions asking why he “left politics” by saying he had not left, but participated in organizations such as the [Open Society] Forum.

A few relevant quotes:

business and education issues, especially teacher initiatives and ethnic identity, are not just political issues. We are once again pushing all these issues to the other party and government. I don’t think the party system is wrong. But what is the main problem of the party system? The problem is that we have only a party system. Mongolia has made state political democracy. We have parties, a parliament and free elections. However, they did not establish any real or other social institutions. Professional associations, youth organizations, and various interest groups, especially civil society, are not institutionalized and organized. That’s why we bring thousands of Mongolian issues to the other party and politics. There, the party has become a channel for decision-making without competition, so it is rotten and bankrupt.”

“You can support a political party, make a political career and help yourself without becoming a boss. After that, social integration can be involved in many other things. Not necessarily a political party. You can participate in various non-governmental organizations, cooperative work and movements. That’s why I’m not asking young people to be leaders, but be involved and make decisions about their lives. Get involved in politics. Maybe you’ll like it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it or not.

Democracy works when everyone participates. Democracy will not be made by 76 members [of Parliament] and one genius President. Probably because people think that political parties are more developed today, people are active in it. So go into politics for three or four years. Just participate in the election and work as a supporter. Then tell me the answer in four years. If not, then stop. If you are interested, go ahead. In other words, this is the working environment of democracy. Now watching TV and waiting for democracy will not work. Therefore, young people must participate in some way.”

Presidential vs. Parliamentary and/or Party Dominance

Enkhbat was asked repeatedly about his views on the power of the presidency, and the condition of political parties. Notably, he did not argue strongly that either a presidential system or parliamentary system was better or more suitable for Mongolia (though stating why he would favor parliamentarism), but rather that the issue was to make the system in question function. He stated repeatedly that the president should be a “unifying” force involved in Mongolia’s position on the world stage, the Parliament should be strong, and that parties should be professional, but democratic and open. Interestingly, he did not have much to say specifically in support of campaign finance measures that have been touted by other KhUN members, though at least one question provided a clear opening (“What should we do to eliminate the ‘moneyed’ election?”).

the world is full of bankrupt countries with a presidential system, and the world is full of bankrupt countries with a parliamentary system. The question is not whether we have fully implemented or established it, but rather the form of governance. Parliamentary governance is not bad, but we have underperformed with our party system. Nor have they established civil society or social institutions in general. Any car that is incomplete is bad. There are no three-wheeled buses or trucks. Instead, parliamentary governance is appropriate for Mongolia. If it were possible to start from scratch, I would choose parliamentary government. Mongolia is a small country. There are many risks involved in centralizing power over national independence. We cannot have such a fragile state. Therefore, there must be a proper system and a comprehensive parliament.”

“We need to support our parliamentary system. Maybe if we had chosen a presidential system 30 years ago, we should have improved it. Now that the parliamentary system has been chosen, it needs to be improved. I don’t believe that children who do poorly will learn better when they start a new notebook. I don’t think we need to oscillate back and forth. Because to start all over again, especially for such irresponsible countries as ours, will only deepen the crisis.”

“[Q.] If you become president, will you be able to curb this monopoly power of the president?

D.Enkhbat: […] the position of the president and the leader must be based on principles. We need to further strengthen our parliamentary system. Uncertainties must be eliminated. Reducing the current power of the president is not the goal in itself. The goal is for the Mongolian parliamentary system to function properly. If indeed the power of the President must be curtailed in order for the Mongolian parliamentary system to function properly, this must be the case.”

“political parties have not changed at all in 30 years. That is why the parties are holding back society. This is followed by problems with the political party system, especially internal party democracy. We must protect the interests of party members by law. Following the electoral system, personnel policy was lost. There is no merit-type human resource system. The main source of the current governance crisis in Mongolia is the political party system. That is why we need to move towards a healthy election and political party system. In addition, the unity of the Mongolian state has been lost. It is re-elected. In other words, we have a four-year lease of power to those who donate money to the state through the rent system. It is disintegrating the state. Therefore, governance issues need to be addressed by making the public personnel system agile and professional.”

“For a political party to remain healthy, the participation of its members must be guaranteed by law. Parties are not private companies. The right to enter, leave and leave a social institution called a party must be open. Therefore, the most important factor in the transformation of a political party is the personnel system. A party member needs to build a pyramid that follows the party’s values ​​and ideology and continues to move forward. In other words, let’s get rid of the word party. This is a labor-power system. The basis of human resources to lead the country.”

“[Q.] If you become President, can you be independent of the party you are nominated by?

Don’t be friends without principles. If you can agree on the principles on both sides, you can work very closely. In other words, if the values ​​and principles are the same, you can work with any party on certain laws and certain issues. So I don’t like to talk about someone being loyal or close to KhUN, MPP or DP. But if the rules, principles, and work of the game are the same, it doesn’t matter which party you belong to. Therefore, on the one hand, the president nominated by the KhUN party must stay away from the political party in accordance with the laws and constitutional principles of Mongolia. On the other hand, if you have the same values ​​as your political party, you have to work as closely together. That’s the principle.”

International Relations

On Russia and China:

“We will never be separate from Russia and China. But [Mongolians] don’t study, don’t know, don’t understand what they [Russia and China] want. They are talking about a business project to make only one deal. The problem is not in the business project. Strategically, we need to understand how to live together in one region.”

South Korea and Japan (but especially South Korea) were mentioned several times as exemplars of development in tune with national specificities.

[Q]: What exactly are the spiritual values ​​and unity of Mongolians? How do you see Mongol studies?

I am very surprised at one thing when I go to Japan. At first glance, everything is Japan, [and also] at first glance, a 21st century modern country, technology. So there is a combination. In the same way, Mongolian identity, the ability to differentiate, or the ability to unite us, is to some extent inevitable in our history and culture. We just need to study how to shape it in the 21st century. We have to study Japan and Korea, we can’t guess. This must be constantly debated and tested. Even the Koreans realized that they were wrong only by trying. We need to prepare the ship and the car to go there now. And you have to be steadfast.

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Untold Blogpost Episode 5: “3D Printing Makes Prosthetics Easier and Brings it Closer”

By Mendee Jargalsaikhan

Our guest is a young engineer, Mandakhnaran, who makes 3D-printed arms for children. It strikes us that there are very few people who know about the 3D-printable prosthetic devices in town.

Mandakhnaran graduated from the New Mongol Institute of Technology and now he works as a mechanical engineer. In 2019, he was inspired to create an arm for a child using the 3D printing technology. This led him to study more about 3D-printed prosthetics – the technology, materials, and international practices. Mandakhnaran made his first 3D-printed arm for a little boy – which the young engineer created himself and, of course, the boy and his parents were happy. We are grateful to Mandakhnaran for taking time off from his busy schedule to explain the basics of 3D prosthetics.

Photo: Working on the hand design (with the permission of Mandakhnaran)

The 3D Prosthetics

To print an arm prosthesis, you would need a digitally simulated model, a 3D printer, and ABS filament or thermoplastic. There are three types of filament: CPE – expensive, high-quality, ABS – moderately priced, commonly used, and PLA – the cheapest, less durable. After taking the measures for an arm or leg to be attached, you use the computer graphics to design the model (known as 3D modelling). It would take a day or two, and then the actual printing could be done in two days. Since it is made of plastic, any type of cleaning product can be used. Depending on the type of plastic (CPE, ABS, or PLA), it would last over at least six months. And you can replace or fix any broken parts anytime.

Photo: Designing the arm (with the permission of Mandakhnaran)

Comparison with Other Available Options

There are two options for people needing artificial limbs. One is the prostheses factories. They use the traditional methods and materials. It would cost around 1,000 – 1,400 USD. They are sturdy, meaning they are heavy and expensive to replace or repair. The other option is ordering the pre-produced resin prostheses from China. It would cost 160 USD. One needs to order and wait for at least two weeks for the delivery. Once ordered, changes cannot be made to the order. Because of its material, it is smelly and produced in only few colours. Mongolian prostheses factories find it difficult to manufacture prostheses for children because they grow fast, and their materials are quite heavy for children. Therefore, it would be costly for parents to change their prosthesis as they grow.

3D Prosthetics Better Choice

Mandakhnaran argues that there are three advantages with the 3D-printed arms. For one, it is reasonably priced, since its cost varies from 50 to 300 USD depending on the type of materials. Second, it will take 3-5 days and it could be partly repaired immediately. Third, you have options. He recalls one of his clients, a boy who got an ugly coloured arm prosthesis from China. So, he was ashamed of the appearance and smell of his prosthetic arm. This brought him down and he lost confidence. When Mandakhnaran was working with him to select the design and colour of his new arm, the boy said that he wanted a robot arm. With this new arm, his spirit was uplifted, and he is now happy to show his arm to his classmates. So, with the 3D-printed arm, you can select the design of your arm. When Mandakhnaran mentioned that we can attach more gadgets to it, the movie ‘Inspector Gadget’ came to my mind.

It was touching to hear that one boy drew a big “A” letter with his new arm – that made him, his parents, and Mandakhnaran so happy. Although that boy cannot draw a perfect little “A”, he apparently inspired Mandakhnaran – who now thinks about adding more gadgets. Several times, Mandakhnaran pointed out that he is ready to make 3D-printable prosthetic devices for anyone who needed. It seemed to me, this young engineer needs a challenge to push him to make discoveries. He participated in a start-up competition with his innovation. Even though the judges agreed on the 3D-printed arm being interesting, they all concluded that it is less profitable. Against this mindset, Mandakhnaran is determined to help children and people who need prosthetic devices.

Photo: 3D arm (with the permission of Mandakhnaran)

Positive Takeaways from His Japanese Experience

We need to talk to people with disabilities and they are nice people, Mandakhnaran highlighted. He studied in Japan for his fifth and sixth grade. In his class, there was a student who lost both his arms and legs. Soon, he realized there were children with disabilities also included in other classes. Since these students studied together with the disabled student from grade one, they all knew each other very well and treated each other with respect. Like all earlier guests, Mandakhnaran explains the importance of an inclusive education environment for all.

Impact of Covid-19

Our pandemic related question gave another opportunity for our guest to highlight advantage of the 3D printing technology. If parents could take the exact measures, they would not need to come by in order to get the artificial limb. All could be done and delivered in distance during the pandemic. If someone requires getting a part of the 3D-printed arm, it could be done without seeing each other.

If the government or private businesses supported Mandakhnaran, he would help more children – uplifting their spirit. He did not hide the fact that he spent ten days to make his first 3D-printed arm because it was all new for him. Moreover, he was using the institute’s only 3D printer, which was quite outdated. But a long-awaited Iron Man arm made his client happy and, for sure, we know he was showing off his Iron Man hand to his friends. When Sainbuyan and I were debating whether to invite Mandakhnaran as our guest, a good, old friend doctor of mine said – ‘It is a miracle, if someone makes a 3D-printed arm in Mongolia’ and explained the challenges of people with amputations of extremities. We do not know at the moment, but wholeheartedly believe that we need to support this young Mongolian mechanical engineer’s passion and dream of helping people with disabilities.

Photo: He also made a Mongolian Ironman with 3D printing (with the permission of Mandakhnaran)

The Untold podcast and blog post are made available by the generous support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Mongolia. We also want to thank our editor Riya Tikku.

Posted in Education, People with Disabilities, Podcast, Younger Mongolians | Tagged | Leave a comment

Guest Post: An Election with Handpicked Candidates?

By Max Duckstein

On May 6, the election commission confirmed the receipt of the third and last candidate for the upcoming presidential elections: S Erdene. In the hours before, the deputies of his own party urged the commission not to accept his documents, resorting even to starting a hunger strike on Ulaanbaatar’s central Sukhbataar Square. The now culminating conflict is already swelling for months and not only threatens Mongolia’s biggest opposition party but also the credibility of its election system.

Reforms in the Democratic Party

After losing the parliamentary elections in June, the then-chairman of the Democratic Party Erdene had to resign according to the party’s statutes. His deputy and former General Secretary Ts Tuvaan agreed to lead the party until a new chairman would be elected. Together with a group of upcoming young politicians like P Nurzed, they managed to lead the party to relative success in the local elections shortly afterward. As a next step, the provisional leadership planned to fundamentally revise the party statutes. The new statutes were to be adopted at a party congress and new leadership elected at the same time. However, plans for a party congress were halted as a result of the first-time local outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in mid-November 2020 and the subsequent lockdown.

Since the old party constitution requires internal elections after the resignation of the chairman, the new leadership around Tuvaan came under increasing pressure to pass its planned party reform. On December 7, they finally managed to pass the reforms digitally. Around that time Erdene started to appear more often in public again, criticizing the new leadership and the sitting president for his supposed influence on the party. It is believed that Erdene holds a longstanding grudge against Pres Kh Battulga, blaming him for the lost parliamentary elections and his subsequent downfall. His sudden resurgence after months of silence surprised many inside the DP nonetheless, after he had initially vowed to not interfere with the rebuilding of the party after the election defeat. Soon thereafter Erdene made public statements that a DP under his leadership would not nominate president Battulga again, raising suspicions that this was the reason behind his comeback. Mongolian election law states that each party represented in parliament is allowed to nominate only one candidate for the presidential elections. A candidate not nominated by a party with at least one seat in parliament is barred from registering.

A conveniently daring exploit

On December 25, 2020, the former party chairman pulled off a coup that has not been fully illuminated to this day: He convinced the Mongolian registration authority to issue a new stamp for the DP to him. With the stamp comes the ability to sign documents for the party and represent it legally. Why the central registration authority provided him with a new stamp and subsequently revoked the one that was held by Tuvaan remains to be explained till today. While more cautious observers guessed that he pretended the old stamp was lost, some saw this as a starting point for a plot to split the country’s largest opposition party before the upcoming presidential elections. Although it is hard to explain how Erdene could have pretended to lose a stamp he officially handed over to Tuvaan months ago.

Besides carrying the official stamp, the registration of new leadership and new statues at the Supreme Court are required under the Mongolian party law. To the surprise of the new leadership, the court rejected the registration on January 14. They argued that the COVID-induced digital format of the party congress was not explicitly envisaged under the old party statutes. Now possessing the newly registered party stamp, Erdene petitioned the court to be registered as chairman again. However, the Supreme Court denied this as well, since the old party statutes required the chairman to step down after losing national elections. The court’s decisions left the party in limbo unable to move forward in any direction. In the meantime, both stamps are regarded as not legitimate by the courts. Solving this dispute with judicial means will take months. To overcome at least some of the uncertainty, both camps announced internal elections on March 28, calling more than 200,000 members to vote. While the DP around Tuvaan called on members to fill out ballots by hand in their home provinces, Erdene now tried his hand at conducting a digital membership vote resulting in the election of the only locally known 42-old M Tulgat. To prevent another legal setback, the DP led by Tuvaan held an additional in-person party congress on April 3: In eastern Ulaanbaatar, 1,200 delegates gathered in an open-air parking lot to confirm the election of their new party head Ts Tsogtgerel, a newly elected member of parliament from Uvs.

Reaching a dead-end

Following the old party statutes, both Erdene and the DP had to elect a candidate for the presidential elections on June 9. The sitting president Battulga did not appear on the election ballots since the Supreme Court controversially ruled him out for a second term on April 16. Finally, on May 1 Tuvan announced that N Altankhuyag won the internal competition. A former DP prime minister and the only current member of parliament that was elected as an independent, campaigning for an equal and fair distribution of Mongolia’s natural resources. Simultaneously, Erdene was announced as the surprise winner of his own elections, resulting in the other candidates, all members of parliament, and nearly all local DP chapters distancing themselves from him.

While the ongoing legal disputes over legitimacy did not lead to any substantial problems until this point, the closing deadline for the parties to submit their candidates to the central election commission lead to a change. The head of the commission, a close friend of the MPP’s presidential candidate U Khurelsukh, was appointed by the MPP government. Following Mongolian law, the election commission required the DP to submit only one candidate until 6 pm on May 5. Although they extended their deadline until midnight, neither Altankhuyag nor Erdene withdrew their documents. Ultimately, the commission decided to only accept Erdene’s documents. They claimed that the last legally undisputed change in leadership in the DP was the 2017 election of Erdene, leaving parliamentarians in disbelief. Five of them started a hunger strike on the central Sukhbaatar Square the same night that still lasts on May 6 protesting the decision. The police stopped their supporters from handing them blankets to protect them during the night and some journalists were barred from entering the square.

An election campaign with convenient opponents

While it is easy to dismiss all of this as internal problems of the notoriously quarrelling DP, it poses more serious questions regarding the vulnerability of the Mongolian electoral process. Keeping in mind that the initial re-issuance of a stamp to Erdene by the central registration authority seems to have been illegitimate, there was no way for the DP to avoid this situation. Submitting the country’s largest opposition party to endless court battles following a seemingly faulty decision by the central registration authority that ends in not registering their elected candidate for the formally highest position in the state has uncomfortable connotations.

After the Mongolian Revolutionary People’s Party recently merged with the governing Mongolian People’s Party, allegedly in exchange for three ministries, there are only two opposition parties left in Mongolia’s parliament that could nominate a presidential candidate. The Democratic Party’s ability to do so was now crippled twice after the recent events and barring the popular sitting president Battulga from standing as a candidate. If the Khun party’s candidate D Enkhbat will succeed to gather the anti-MPP vote remains at least questionable after the recent conflicts between the DP and the Khun party.

Mistakes can happen in any bureaucracy. In Mongolia, Khurelsukh seems always to profit politically from them though. This seems especially convenient now as his own image is damaged in public opinion. Following his resignation as prime minister using a minor protest as an excuse, many distrust his ability to lead the country through difficult times. Restricting the major opposition party of the country twice in the attempt to choose a presidential candidate and forcing a weakened and ostracized candidate on them seems more than timely. Khurelsukh will certainly enjoy an unusually easy campaign start this month.

About Max Duckstein

Max Duckstein is Senior Policy Analyst at the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation’s office in Mongolia. He obtained his Master’s degree (M.A.) in Sociology at Bielefeld University. As a scholarship holder of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) he spent a semester in Russia as visiting researcher at Saint Petersburg State University.

Posted in Democratic Party, Max Duckstein, Party Politics, Politics, Presidential 2021 | Leave a comment

Presidential Election Candidates: Initial Outlook

By Julian Dierkes

Before the presidential election campaign gets started in earnest, I want to offer my sense of the candidates, issues, and some thoughts about possible outcomes.

Candidates have now been nominated. In one of the great surprises of the political year (not!), the MPP nominated U Khurelsukh, frm PM and, I assume given the requirement for candidates not to be members of parties, frm party chair. In yet another odd twist of the self-destructive trajectory of the DP, it, or at least some relevant part of it, seems to have nominated N Altankhuyag, frm PM and frm party chair. Though, wait, maybe not?Finally, XYH nominated D Enkhbat, entrepreneur and frm MP for then-Civil Will Party.

Main Dynamic: Anti-MPP Vote and Run-Off

I think that this election will turn entirely on how strong the desire among voters is to elect a non-MPP candidate for balance, and how that dynamic will play out in a three-way race.

We only need to turn to the 2017 election as an example of the desire of Mongolian voters to see some balance in the highest offices. With Marissa Smith, I recently wrote about this trepidation about one-party domination in the context of Pres Battulga’s attempt to ban the MPP. Inadvertently, Battulga’s seemingly desperate attempt to cling to power or have a chance to be re-elected will have sharpened the case for a non-MPP president in some voters’ mind.

But, how will this play out in a three-way race? The 2017 election had brought a run-off for the first time even though there had been other elections with more than two candidates. For example, in the 2013 election N Udval’s MPRP candidacy did not force incumbent Ts Elbegdorj into a run-off though he only won with a slight margin.

[Sidenotes: Yes, a woman has been a candidate for president recently, either supporting or questioning the frequently-heard comment that “Mongolians will not vote for a woman”. That common view is contrasted to me (as a German) by the sense that Germans find it hard to imagine a male chancellor at the moment. Also, note the interesting coincidence that Udval had previously been a Minister of Health, a role that brings much more attention with it in pandemic times, has often been seen as a “feminine” ministry, though, surprise, in critical times, we are back to a male Min of Health. Finally, note that Mendee and I had a back and forth about the likelihood of a run-off in 2013: Me IMendeeMe II.]

First prediction: Khurelsukh will win a plurality, but not a majority of votes in the first round, thus forcing a run-off.

The MPP can count on its rural and committed voter base to give Khurelsukh a lot of votes, but if anything, it seems like trepidation about the dominance of one party has grown since 2017, so it seems like a majority is unlikely. This is odd, in some ways, of course, as the electorate certainly endorsed the MPP and then-PM Khurelsukh in the 2020 parliamentary election.

Will COVID Play a Significant Role?

It is odd to think that a global pandemic, recently high infections in Mongolia, even outside of Ulaanbaatar, and the government response to it will not be a dominant driver in the election. Yes, it will be present as a topic, but perhaps not as much as I would have expected even a month ago or so. Why? Khurelsukh’s resignation as PM in January seemed driven by electoral calculations, involving the fear of a less-than-stellar record on fighting COVID. More oddities in that since a) Khurelsukh’s 2020 election victory was interpreted as partly due to the effective COVID response of his government, and b) if the electoral calculus was a strong driver, why did PM L Oyun-Erdene not react more forcefully to rising infection rates, even recognizing the supposed lockdown fatigue that may or may not have been a widespread sentiment.

But, infection rates and vaccine shipments can change massively in the five weeks of the campaign. So, this could really backfire on Khurelsukh if infection rates remain high and/or there are continued delays in vaccine shipments. Or, a decline in infections and/or rise in vaccinations could be a boost to his candidacy. Either way, I suspect that Khurelsukh will emphasize his COVID response much less than I would have thought months ago while other candidates may want to raise this more loudly.

And, hopefully, public health conditions will be such that an election (campaign) will be possible roughly as it was last year, i.e. physically distanced campaigning and lots of distancing measures for the election, perhaps even enabling mobile voting for quarantined individuals.

Second prediction, a bit lame: The impact of COVID will depend on … COVID, that is infection and/or vaccination rates. In all likelihood, COVID will not be eradicated nor is there a public health catastrophe coming (I hope), so the impact will perhaps be muted.



Khurelsukh himself? Very attractive to the party faithful, I assume. And thus possibly also attractive to a good number of Enkhbayar/MPRP supporters many of whom “turned” on their “roots” in 2017 by voting for S Ganbaatar. If MPRP support is still somewhere around 10% nationwide and if I am correct in guessing that almost all of that support might vote for Khurelsukh, maybe that is the only path to a majority in the first round.

What else does Khurelsukh offer? Generational change in the MPP, competent management as PM. He certainly thinks of himself as a leader, though he does not express that in any policy ambitions that I am aware of. Perhaps a strong suit for a presidential candidate, i.e. he is probably good at looking presidential. My sense that he would continue to weaken Mongolia’s international relations (as Pres Battulga has) for being very much focused on Mongolia is more likely to be attractive to his supporters than important or unattractive to any swing voters.


[May 24: Note that after the DP tussle, in the end, it’s S Erdene who is the candidate.]

I am assuming here that his nomination will stand despite the DP-internal, um, shenanigans.

Obviously, he is very familiar to voters. As far as I can tell, considering his long presence in politics he is relatively untainted by (corruption) scandals. But if I am right that the election will turn on anti-MPP-dominance sentiment, can he galvanize that sentiment and motivate swing voters to a) vote at all, and b) vote for him? I do not have a strong sense of how Altankhuyag is perceived in public.


Disclosure: I invited Enkhbat to a November 2008 conference on contemporary Mongolia (which was the basis for the edited volume, Change in Democratic Mongolia – Social Relations, Health, Pastoralism, and Mining), so I have met him personally and have communicated with him in the past.

Again, some oddities particularly in XYH’s nomination of Enkhbat who, after all, has been a member of parliament for the Civil Will Party (now, Civil Will Green Party) and who has not really been involved in XYH, as far as I can tell. However, he is clearly sympatico to much of what XYH stands for, i.e. a different kind of politics, more educated, perhaps more liberal (in an economic sense, though not neo-liberal, I think, i.e. support for entrepreneurs, but not a religious belief in markets as a policy panacea).

I do think that he will be able to galvanize much of the urban anti-MPP vote. For example, many of the supporters of the “blank ballot” movement in 2017 are likely to vote for him as support of a different-from-MAHAH political force. But, perhaps I overestimate the numbers of those people as I, along with many others, had expected more XYH candidates to win seats in last year’s parliamentary election.

I do not have a strong sense of how he is perceived by the public, though his past political office and his various entrepreneurial activities make him prominent enough that he is well-known.

Third prediction: Candidates’ personal qualifications will be over-shadowed by the anyone-but-the-MPP dynamic.


The president’s political powers are quite limited. There are really only three policy domains where the president has significant direct influence, largely through participation in appointments: foreign policy, judiciary, and the military.

Given these limits, past presidential campaigns have not been strong on policy. And neither have presidencies. Can anyone name a successful policy ambition that Pres. Battulga has been able to carry out. Where there even any discernible initiatives other than populist ploys for public enthusiasm like the death penalty or various pay-outs?

Along these lines I suspect no concrete policy proposals or discussions from MPP or DP candidates. Potentially, Enkhbat could be different in this regard as he may credibly talk about different policies. Yet, the strength of his claims would come in areas like economic policy where the presidency brings symbolic power at best.

The one area of policy that has been of great concern to voters (and this observer) is the independence of the judiciary and – closely related – anti-corruption efforts. In this area, Enkhbat’s independence and lack of a strong party power base, as well as his own trajectory as an entrepreneur not firmly aligned with any conglomerates as far as I know, he may have a lot of credibility with all those voters who are concerned about this issue. Yes, Khurelsukh and Altankhuyag will talk a lot about anti-corruption policies, but they have no discernible track record in these efforts and neither does either of their parties for the past decade.

Fourth prediction: Even if it is unclear how determinant of a vote this may be, anti-corruption is the single topic where policy might matter, but only if Enkhbat can claim the anti-corruption mantel effectively.

Posted in Democracy, Democratic Party, Elections, Mongolian People's Party, National Labor Party, Politics, Presidential 2021 | Tagged | Leave a comment

Untold Blogpost Episode 4: “Introducing A New Idea: Independent Livelihood”

By Mendee Jargalsaikhan

Our guest is Undrakhbayar, the founder and director of Tugeemel Hugjil (Universal Progress MILC), the first-ever Center for Independent Living for people with disabilities in Mongolia. As a result of a doctor’s failure to perform a spinal tab (extraction of spinal fluid), he lost his ability to walk. It turned his life upside down. He was shocked, depressed, frustrated, and even thought of suicide.

Listen to our Podcast “Untold: The Hidden Stories of Persons with Disabilities in Mongolia” (in Mongolian) 

One day, his sister asked him to memorize hiragana, a Japanese alphabet, instead of doing nothing. Not long after, he ran into elder Japanese tourists – they happened to be staying at the Takhilt rehabilitation resort. So, he tried to communicate with them in Japanese. It was the moment, he decided to go back to university to learn Japanese. After graduating from university with a Japanese language degree, he got the Japanese scholarship for people with disabilities in the Asian Pacific Region. Living and studying a year in Japan was an eye-opening experience for him and inspired him to introduce an entirely new concept – Independent Living – in Mongolia to give the disabled people hope. His center has 18 staff members and 600 members.

Photo: Mr. Undrakhbayar.Ch, Founder and Director of ‘Universal Progress’ MILC (all the images in the article are used with permission by Undrakhbayar)

Going to Schools

Before this incident, he had been dreaming of becoming a history and archeology teacher. Then, he took a year off to earn some money to pay his tuition, but the tragedy happened, and he did not want to go out. After meeting the Japanese elder lady at the resort, she sent him money to get some treatment. And his mom told him to continue studying Japanese, at least, to write a thank you letter to the Japanese lady. So, he started studying Japanese at the language center. But a teacher advised him to study at the university instead of wasting time and money at the center. Soon, he joined Ireedui, a Japanese Language Institute. Initially it was hard, he said. He lived in a five-story building without lift. His dad was working so hard to get some money to pay his taxi and his mom used to wait for him outside of the school with a glass, since the institute did not have an accessible washroom. Once he got to know his classmates, things got much better – he smiled and shared funny stories. He made friends and met his future spouse at the school. Later, in 2013, he studied for a master’s degree at the University of Finance and Economics. And he was thankful to the university administration that made quick improvements in terms of wheelchair entrance and washroom accessibility.  

Dealing with Mental Hardship – Peer Counselling

The most touching part of the podcast was about the mental situation-the absence of psychological counselling for both the disabled person and their close ones. Many people could not accept the fact, express their frustration, and became traumatized. Looking back, Undrakhbayar thinks that if there had just been someone who would have told him that he will never walk again, and that he now needed to learn how to live with a wheelchair, it would all have been much easier for him. There was no one who could give him practical advice on how to sit in a wheelchair, how to transfer to a toilet seat, or how to maneuver. All steps were unknown and only caused stress and frustration. If there had been peer-counselling by a disabled person for each step, it would have been extremely helpful. Or, there could have been a psychologist or a social worker to help him go through this difficult transitioning period. In Mongolia, he said, doctors often give false hope – along the lines of ‘if you try, you might walk again’. But, for many, this causes unnecessary efforts, a waste of time and money to achieve something impossible. So, doctors should be truthful and if they cannot be, they at least should refer to someone who went through all this trauma and hardship and could provide peer-counselling. In Japan, for example, medical centers let disabled people immediately practice sports (basketball, ski, etc.) to get them mentally distracted, to help them adjust to their wheelchairs, and to develop their muscles. The National Traumatology and Orthopedics Research Center needs to set up a peer-counselling service, Undrakhbayar argues, this would help many people to get adjusted quicker and relieve their mental pains. Yes, the mental hardship and absence of a support system was highlighted by all our earlier guests. Here, Undrakhbayar is proposing the most practical solution – peer counselling for all types of disabilities. As he said, there are many issues that he cannot discuss with his family or even doctors because they do not understand. The only person he would be willing to listen and talk to is a person who has the same disability and gender. 

Photo: Workshop of ‘Universal Progress’

Independent Living

Independent living is a totally new concept in Mongolia, where disabled people rely largely on their families. Just like in Japan, where it took years to change the state and public attitude, to establish a system supporting independent living, and to remove cultural and physical barriers for disabled people to participate in the social life. Undrakhbayar’s objectives are clearly laid out. They established the non-governmental organization to develop the concept and to educate government officials and people. Now they are working with families of three disabled persons to let them work independently. This creates a number of challenges to find good solutions. At the same time, Undrakhbayar’s team is introducing a personal assistant system for disabled people. The personal assistant will help disabled people to live independently and to participate in social activities. Since this is being done for the very first time in Mongolia, Undrakhbayar and his colleagues developed lectures, training materials, and rules and regulations. As he explains, first, they go around schools and universities to introduce the personal assistance program and then organize a two-day training (theory and practice) with interested people in order to certify them. Now they have 30 personal assistants and about 10 families which receive personal assistance services for their loved ones. This type of service is quite common internationally, Undrakhbayar said, we are working to localize the Japanese experience in Mongolia. But it requires a great deal of work. On one hand, they need to increase public awareness and help government officials understand the mutual benefits gained from the concept of independent living since independent living enables the disabled people to contribute to the development of the society. On the other hand, they need to prepare disabled people to live independently and to establish a system of personal assistants. The Independent Living project is heavily relying on international donor funding (e.g., international organizations, embassies, and developmental assistance). 

Photo: Mr. Undrakhbayar with his colleague Mr. Nyam-Ochir along with other members of Mongolian NGOs, participating in international conference at United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland

Covid-19 Impacts

Because of the pandemic, Tugeemel Hugjil cancelled the most wanted and awaited international event, which would bring its international partners from eight countries in the Asian Pacific Region. Undrakhbayar sighed, this could have become their capstone event for the 10th anniversary of Tugeemel Hugjil and, of course, their fight for promoting independent living. Unlike our earlier guests, Undrakhbayar appears to be highlighting the positive impacts of the pandemic. His staff has been learning lots of new technologies and programs on the internet. He has been conducting more meetings with international organizations and new partners. The pandemic allowed them to renovate their office and to improve the working environment. Otherwise, the office is always crowded and busy as they work with their members. And he does acknowledge that the pandemic has been very hard on their members because they could not participate in social activities.

Listening to Undrakhbayar’s conversation, it becomes clear that it has not been easy and took tremendous efforts to introduce the concept of independent living. If it had not been for Avirmed akh (brother), who is working for their non-governmental organization, Undrakhbayar cannot imagine that Tugeemel Hugjil would have become one of the influential non-governmental organizations for disabled people. There were many times, he wanted to give up. However, Avirmed supported him to stay on course and reach his dream of introducing independent living in Mongolia. The happiest moment is, as he describes, when he hears the noise, excitement, and team spirit in his office, and sees these mostly disabled employees who overcame their fears and frustration working together for a common good to make the society more inclusive for people with disabilities.

The Untold podcast and blog post are made available by the generous support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Mongolia. We also want to thank our editor Riya Tikku.

Posted in Education, Health, Human Rights, Inequality, Mendee Jargalsaikhan, People with Disabilities, Podcast | Tagged | Leave a comment

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.


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!

Posted in Democratic Party, Elections, Mongolian People's Party, Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, National Labor Party, Party Politics, Politics, Presidential 2021 | Tagged | Leave a comment

Guest Post: Democracy in Danger? A Court Ruling with Serious Implications for Mongolia’s Future

By Johann Fuhrmann and Max Duckstein

The lead-up to the Mongolian presidential elections on June 9 is getting messier by the day. On April 16 the constitutional court ruled to bar the incumbent president Kh Battulga from running a second time for the position of head of state. The decision aroused opposition among the political opposition of the landlocked Asian country and led to an exchange of accusations between the president and the former socialist ruling party, the Mongolian People’s Party. But the decision comes with many implications and might put the political system in serious jeopardy.

A pragmatic president

Battulga was elected in 2017 as a candidate nominated by the largest Mongolian opposition party, the Democratic Party. During his campaign, he was regarded as a political outsider but gathered support among voters who were critical of placing more political power in the hands of the ruling Mongolian People’s Party and their unpopular candidate M Enkhbold. Although he campaigned on a platform of hawkish views on Chinese-Mongolian relations, his presidential agenda was shaped by ideas of careful balancing and further cautious rapprochement towards the People’s Republic. Especially a diplomatic gesture during the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis earned him much international recognition: As a sign of good neighbourly relations, he organized the donation of 30,000 sheep from Mongolia to China. The neighbouring superpower returned the favour later by delivering large amounts of COVID-19 tests and vaccines.

A deeply political decision?

For his whole incumbency, Battulga has faced a Mongolian Peoples Party’s (MPP) supermajority in parliament. In 2019 they proposed a series of amendments to the constitution that would limit the president’s power to shift Mongolia’s semi-presidential system more in the direction of a parliamentary system, among other things. The most serious change to the position of the president under the new amendments is the limitation to a single six-year term instead of two four-year terms under Article 30.2. Originally these amendments were planned to include an adjunct grandfather clause. This would have stated that this section only enters into force in 2025. This would have guaranteed that the sitting president would be eligible to run for a second four-year term this year. Controversially, this clarifying clause was removed from the draft before its passage, creating uncertainty around the current president’s rights. Eventually, the modified amendments were passed just in time as the timeframe for passing them was closing rapidly allowing for the mandatory 6-month buffer between any constitutional changes and the next elections. This brought some preliminary closure to the painstakingly complex and many months-long political negotiating that preceded the passing, leaving one basic question in limbo, leaving the Constitutional Court to decide on the matter. However, the independence of the Court has been disputed in the past. The judges have been accused to rule in the favour of strong political actors, namely the MPP. This alone seriously taints the perceived legitimacy of the ruling in the eyes of many observers. In Mongolian social media, many have suspected a deeply political decision.

Checks and balances no more?

Now that the medium chamber of the court decided to bar the sitting president from running again, the decision must be ratified by the Mongolian parliament, the Great State Khural. But after shifting the parliamentary electoral system to a first-past-the-post system the MPP won again a supermajority in last year’s June elections while gathering “only” 44,8% of the popular vote. While the Democratic Party retained many seats in provincial assemblies during the subsequent local elections, they are faced with an overwhelming MPP majority of 81,6 % in the national parliament. This non-representative accumulation of seats by the MPP already poses a challenge to democratic principles that goes beyond the difference between the popular vote and the number of seats in most winner-takes-all systems in the world. Having such a non-representative supermajority modify constitutional amendments in a way that directly benefits them by making the right of the most popular politician at the time to run against them uncertain, seems at least like a questionable use of that legislative power. Battulga was ranked the most popular politician in the country in 2018 in the KAS / St. Maral Politbarometer. During his presidency, he was always ranked as the most or second-most popular politician who constantly enjoyed the trust of at least 1/3 of the population in the nationwide poll. These numbers are more impressive than they might seem at first glance since large parts of the population harbour a deep mistrust against the political class. The ambiguity that resulted from passing the amendments without a specific grandfather clause directly benefits MPP by eliminating another check in the legislative system of the country.

This is especially the case since U Khurelsukh, the prime minister at the time, has and had clear ambitions to become the next president of Mongolia. Using relatively small protests following a scandal in the health sector Khurelsukh stepped down as head of government right before the local escalation of the pandemic. Even as Khurelsukh was announcing his resignation at a press conference, the Standing Committee on State Structure was already meeting to give the necessary approval to his actions. In his speech at the parliamentary session that followed shortly thereafter, Khurelsukh accused President Battulga of instrumentalizing the protests for his own purposes and fomenting them unnecessarily. At the same time, the outgoing head of government stressed that he still had years ahead of him in politics. In subsequent speeches, members of the ruling party brought up the possibility of impeachment proceedings against the president. Although they have so far not followed up on these ultimate threats, the problematic nature of utilizing the sharpest judicial tools a democracy has to offer to achieve politically short- and midterm goals remains. Now, after the decision of the court, Khurelsukh’s chances of not having to run against a still popular incumbent increased significantly. Now, that many critics openly call his emotional resignation a rather mediocre masterclass in acting, the incumbent president would pose a more serious threat than ever to the former prime minister.

A political system in jeopardy?

Although this would be unorthodox, the parliament can still reject the ruling and return the decision to the court’s full chamber. This final verdict would not need to be ratified by the parliament. Of course, it is uncertain if the court’s full chamber would decide differently. But it would at least signify the parliament’s will to acknowledge the potentially undemocratic character of the events leading up to this situation. In a country where the trust in the independence of courts is certainly underwhelming and the electoral system assured a supermajority for the government for two consecutive terms, losing one more check on power seems by itself already potentially harmful enough. Undermining the democratic process by the parliament gladly accepting to ban one of the most promising candidates from running seems irritating for assuring people that checks and balances are still in place.

About Johann Fuhrmann and Max Duckstein

Johann Fuhrmann heads the office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation in Mongolia. Prior to that, he was Head of Growth and Innovation at the Economic Council (Wirtschaftsrat der CDU). As a scholarship holder of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation he obtained his Master’s degree (MSc.) in International Relations at the London School of Economics.

Max Duckstein is Senior Policy Analyst at the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation’s office in Mongolia. He obtained his Master’s degree (M.A.) in Sociology at Bielefeld University. As a scholarship holder of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) he spent a semester in Russia as visiting researcher at Saint Petersburg State University.

Posted in Constitution, Democracy, Democratic Party, Johann Fuhrmann, Judiciary, Law, Max Duckstein, Mongolian People's Party, Party Politics, Politics, Presidential 2021 | Leave a comment