In 1996, Communists (MPRP) were unexpectedly ousted after being in power for more than 70 years. The MPRP was hammered in parliamentary elections. Their number of seats in the 76-seat parliament dropped from 76 to 24. The MPRP led Mongolia under communism until 1990, when it ended one-party rule after street protests.

The election was won by the Democratic Union Coalition, consisting of the Mongolian National Democratic Party (MNDP), winning 33 seats, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), winning 12 seats, and non party candidates in the coalition, 3 seats. The turnout in the election was 87 percent.

The leader of the Democratic Union Coalition was Radnaasumbereliin Gonchigdorj, a son of a Buddhist monk and a former math professor who was involved in the 1990 pro-democracy movement and helped found the Social Democratic Party. He has a round face, thick black hair and was regarded as an opportunist. The Democratic Union Coalition was coached by the U.S.-based International Republican Institute and ran its campaign with a platform similar to Newt Gingrich’s Contract for America.

The Democrats accelerated the pace of shock therapy reforms. These caused hardships and were unpopular. The democrats also bickered among themselves. There were four prime ministers in four years. The coalition broke up into the MNDP and four smaller parties,

Tumultuous Late 1990s

The late 1990s was a tumultuous period in Mongolia. The anti-Communist coalition went through seven finance ministers and three prime ministers in four years. Three governments collapsed. Several lawmakers were jailed on corruption charges. One was implicated in a banking scandal; another was involved in shady copper mine deal; and yet another was accused of accepting bribes from the owners of a casino that was never allowed to open up.

Reform stalled as Communist President Bagadandi, elected in 1997, fought with the parliament on key policy changes bring the reforms to a standstill. In July 1998, Prime Minister Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj and his entire cabinet resigned during a standoff between the Democratic Coalition and the Communist MPRP.

In October 1998, 35-year-old Sanjaasurengiin Zorig, one of Mongolia's democratic reformers and one of the most charismatic members of the Democratic Coalition, was stabbed 18 times and killed by two men in his home while his wife looked on. It was the first assassination in Mongolia's short history as a democracy. No one is sure why he was killed or who did it but it was believed to have been connected with a shady casino deal. Erdenin Bat-Uul, a former member of parliament and top leader in the Mongolian National Democratic Party, was questioned by police in connection with the murder.

By the time parliamentary election came around in 2000 voters were fed up with the chaos and corruption and looked to the former Communists for salvation.

Communists Return to Power

The Communists (MPRP) returned to power in the parliamentary elections in 2000 on the back of promises of raising welfare payments, slowing the pace privatization, and increasing social support programs. They unexpectedly took 72 of the 76 seats in the Great Hural. The election was generally regarded as free and fair and there were no irregularities. A total of 16 parties took part in the boisterous 75 day campaign. Voter turnout was 82 percent. The MPRP also held on to Mongolia’s 21 provincial governorships.

In the presidential election in May 2001, Bagabandi, the incumbent of the MPRP, won with 58 percent of the vote. He defeated Gonchigdorj of the Democratic Party, who had 37 percent; and Dashnyam, of the Civil Will Party, who took 3.5 percent. Voter turn out was 82 percent. Bagbandi was first elected president in 1997. He is a former Mongolian Communist with a short mustache. Political cartoonist often depict him as a cat. He was the son of nomads. One of his political slogans was: “I grew up in the dust of many horses.”

Millions of dollars was spent on the campaign. Bagabandi’s platform was expressed by the slogan: “If the government is stable, the people will be peaceful.” Bagabandi supporters accused Gonchigdori of helping some of his math students cheat in an international competition. Gonchigdori supporters accused Bagabandi of taking $1 million in bribes from the Chinese. Dashnyam, a kind of Mongolian Ralph Nader, was never taken seriously.

With the parliament, presidency and governships under MPRP control, Mongolia was virtually a one party state again. The MPRP promised to raise pensions and wages and reorganize the herding economy.

Mongolia Elections in 2004 Produce a Split Parliament

In June 2004, the results of parliament elections split control of the parliament between the MPRP and the Democrats (Motherland Democracy coalition) forcing them to form a grand a coalition government. An uneasy ruling coalition was formed. The MPRP and Democrats accused each other of vote fraud and other abuses.

The MPRP won 37 seats and the Motherland Democracy Coalition took 35 seats in the 76-seat parliament. The MRP won one seat and independents took three seats. One seat won by an MPRP member was disputed. The court nullified the vote after evidence of fraud was found. In the second election the MPRP candidate won in a landslide. Still the MPRP fell short of the 39 votes it needed to form a majority. The election result was disastrous for the MPRP which was expected to win big and held 72 of the 76 seats before the election. Many voters appear to have been unhappy with the way the MPRP had handled the economy.

The MPRP ended up with 38 seats in parliament, just one short of the minimum 39 required to form a government. The MPRP and its partners squabbled over government posts and proposed changes to laws on mineral rights. The fragile coalition produced three different prime ministers in four years.

Tsakhia Elbegdori

Tsakhia Elbegdorj was selected the Prime Minister in August 2004. The son of a herder, he was born in 1963 and educated at Harvard. He made a name for himself as an opposition journalist, calling one of Mongolia’s early leaders a Mongolian Lenin and another a Mongolian Stalin. He served as prime minister in the late 1990s when the Democrats came to power for the first time. After his first 100 days in office he told the New York Times that getting through Harvard was much, much easier than trying to run the Mongolian government. He said keeping his coalition together was “like holding a raw egg.”

Elbegdorj was educated under the Soviet system and was initially a committed Communist. In the army, he distinguished himself as such a hard worker in a revolutionary Youth unit he won a scholarship to study Marxism, Leninism and journalism in Lviv, Ukraine.

By the time Elbegdorj became a political leader he was a major advocate of market reforms and was one of the main forces behind privatizing the nation’s livestock herds and achieving a cancellation of 98 percent of Mongolia’s Soviet-era debt. He also headed the Liberty Center, a foundation that promotes political and legal reform and translates into Mongolian the works by conservative economist Milton Friedman.

Elbegdorj’s metamorphosis took place in 1989 when he left a comfortable job at a military newspaper and founded Mongolia’s first independent newspaper. Democracy. He was a charter member of a group now revered as the 13 First Democrats. He earned his degree at Harvard, a masters in public administration, while serving in the opposition in the early 2000s.

Tsakhia Elbegdorj’s Policies

Elbegdorj passed more market reforms, built a high technology economy in Mongolia and replaced the mausoleums of the Soviet-era leader in Sukbaatar Square in central Ulaanbaatar with an enormous statue of Genghis Khan. He also wanted to replace Russian with English as the primary foreign language. He planned to build a network of high-speed Internet fiber optic cables across Mongolia and make the Internet, television and radio independent of the government and provide every herder with a cell phone.

Elbegdorj said, “We want to show the world that so-called eastern values not only belong to America, Europe, South Korea and Japan, but to Mongolia...Mongolians were challenging and breaking the stereotype. Mongolia is implementing political and economic changes simultaneously...We are showing that we can have twin reforms on the political field, while cherishing human rights as a universal value."

Elbegdorj is widely perceived to be pro-American, having received a Master’s in Public Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School. His rival Prime Minister Bayar is regarded as close to Russia.

Nambar Enkhbayer

Nambaryn Enkhbayar is a Mongolian politician. He served as the Prime Minister of Mongolia from 2000 to 2004, as Speaker of the Parliament from 2004 to 2005, and as President of Mongolia from 2005 to 2009

In May 2005, Enkhbayer won the presidential election with 53 percent of the vote. He replaced Bagabandi. His main rival Mednsaikhanin Enkhbayar of the Democratic Party received 20 percent of the vote. Two other candidates took 14 and 11 percent. Enkhbayer was the chairman of the Communist Party MPRP from 1997 to 2005.

Enkhbayer promised to attract foreign investment, lift the country out of poverty, boost economic growth rates to seven percent, cut taxes, create jobs, push legal reforms and eliminate poverty and corruption. He pushed for the building of a Millennium Road, which would span the entire country (See Millennium Road) and maintained that the traditional pastoral existence was longer viable. He wanted to urbanize 90 percent of the population. The opposition made similar proposals but also promised to safeguard human rights and individual freedoms.

Bill Donahue wrote in the Washington Post: “While he was in office, Enkhbayar secretly financed the construction of the 25-story Blue Sky Tower, a soulless glass building — blue-tinted and shaped like a sail — that sits in downtown UB, looming above the red-tiled roof of an ancient pagoda.” [Source: Bill Donahue, Washington Post, September 20, 2013 |::|]

Enkhbayer looks like a wrestler but made a name for himself as a literature scholar, translating works by Joyce, Dickens, H.G. Wells and other writers into Mongolian. He lived in Moscow and studied literature at Leeds University in Britain. As president, he welcomed U.S. President George W. Bush, the first U.S president's visit to the country, in 2007 and received $285 million aid from the U.S. In the 2009 Mongolian presidential election, Enkhbayar was defeated by Elbegdorj of the Democratic Party. Later he was jailed for corruption.


Mongolia Dissolves Government in 2006 after Protests

In January 2006, Mongolia’s parliament dissolved its government after the biggest political party pulled out of the 15-month-old ruling coalition, prompting two days of protests amid complaints. The MPRP cited slow economic growth, inflation and corruption when it withdrew support from the government. But the Democratic Party accused the MPRP of resigning because the party's alleged corruption was about to be discussed by parliament.

Associated Press reported: “No party immediately announced that it would try to form a new government following the vote to dissolve the government of prime minister Tsakhilganiin Elbegdorj. Elbegdorj was appointed to lead an interim administration. But the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, which announced it was pulling out of the coalition, said earlier it would try to form its own government.[Source: Associated Press, January 14, 2006]

“The MPRP party complained that Elbegdorj failed to do enough to fight corruption and worsening poverty in the former Soviet satellite. The MPRP’s decision to leave the coalition prompted a protest by its opponents, who temporarily occupied the party headquarters, accusing its leaders of trying to seize power. MPRP members staged a counter-demonstration in support of the party, demanding that Elbegdorj resign. Elbegdorj said, ‘I have done my best as prime minister of Mongolia. I trust that the legacy of my government will enrich the heritage of Mongolian governance.’”

“Parliament voted 39-0 to dissolve the government after 37 members of the 76-seat body left before the vote. Twenty members of Elbegdorj’s Democratic Party walked out in protest, but five Democrats remained and voted for the dissolution. The legislature’s lone Republican and one of its two independents also voted for the dissolution.”

After the dissolution hundreds of demonstrators, braving freezing temperatures, marched around Mongolia's parliament building, demanding new elections. The protest was organised by the Mongolian United Movement, an alliance of three civic movements calling for political reform in Mongolia, according to the Associated Press. "Dawn has broken in Mongolia. We are getting poorer every day and corrupt officials are getting richer. Now is the time to take action," a leaflet distributed by the organisers of the rally read. [Source: BBC, January 16, 2006 ==]

A 45-year-old herdsman watching the protest said the MPRP was responsible for corruption. "The old revolutionaries like Lenin were at least working for the poor. But now, [the MPRP] are working for themselves for the purpose of becoming rich," Otgonbataar told Reuters. A protester, Tamara, told the Associated Press: "I do not support political parties, I came here because my life gets harder every day. My pension is not enough. The government says they have increased the pension, but at the same time the cost of living is going up.” ==

Mongolia Struggles with Democracy and Change

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Ulaanbaatar was the site of repeated protests over poverty, corruption and complaints about land reform. Mongolia is still one of the poorest countries in Asia. Most Mongolians get by on the equivalent of a few hundred dollars a year. Many are traditional sheep and cattle herders on the vast Mongolian steppe. In the past this vast nation was often slow to change. But in the last few decades there has been massive upheaval. Some have fared well, but many, like the nomads and the poor are struggling to catch up. Turning this ancient country into a modern one is a huge task and, despite nearly two decades of reform, Mongolia still has a long way to go.

In 2007, Daniel Griffiths of the BBC News wrote: “Democracy has not brought the better life that many people hoped for. There is growing anger over the gap between rich and poor The communists did not disappear - the old revolutionary leader Sukhbataar still presides over the main square - and many of them are now in the current government building a new future for the country. Only now the talk is of money not Marx. Mongolia's economy grew by around 6 percent in 2006 and some people are doing very well. [Source: Daniel Griffiths, BBC News, January 11, 2007 ***]

“At a building site in the centre of town I meet Tsendee. He started his construction company with just 10 employees. Now he has got 400 workers on the payroll. "Since Mongolia became a democracy and a market economy, many businesses like mine have done very well," he tells me. "For me this has meant a huge change. I can afford to do anything... life is great." ***

“But despite these changes, between one third and one half of the country lives in poverty, according to government statistics. Many of them end up in the vast shanty towns on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, surviving on just a few dollars a day. One of those is Byambasuren whose husband was an alcoholic who used to beat her. In the end she threw him out and now she is bringing up her three children on her own in a tiny hut with no glass, just plastic sheeting, in the window frames. "Our life was good during communism but capitalism has left us with nothing," she tells me. "The government has done nothing to help us and nobody cares." ***

“High on the grasslands of Mongolia it does not seem as though much has changed in hundreds of years. The vast steppe still rolls on forever until blue sky and yellow earth become one. The nomads, astride their small fast ponies, still herd their animals from summer to winter pastures, following in the footsteps of their ancestors.” ***

The population has become increasingly urbanized, with 60 percent of the population living in towns (40 percent in the capital alone).“Once half of Mongolia's 2.8 million population lived this way, but now things are changing rapidly. Sharhuu has spent his entire life on the grasslands. Now in his sixties, his face weathered from years spent on the steppe, he is thinking the unthinkable - giving up the old ways forever. "My family can help me for now," he says, but, "I know that can't live this way for much longer." ***

“And he is not alone. A series of long tough winters have hit the nomads hard, destroying livestock and leaving many here with nothing. There is little good grazing land for the animals that are left. And since the end of communism in the early 1990s, and Mongolia's move to a market economy, there has not been much help from the government. Like many nomads, Sharhuu has little option but to move to the cities...The government say it is doing more to help fight poverty. But many claim it is not enough and in Ulaanbaatar anger is growing about the gap between rich and poor. Protests in the main square are now a daily occurrence.” ***

20, 000 Protest Food Prices in Mongolia in 2008

In April 2008, 20,000 people marched through the streets of Ulaanbaatar, demanding the government stabilize prices of rice, meat and flour, and guarantee the incomes of poor people. The protest was called by the Mongolian Confederation of Trade Unions. Banners said “Stop inflated food prices” and “Let the Salaries of the working class increase”. [Source: New York Times, April 22, 2008 |]

According to the New York Times: “When you take into consideration there are only just under 3 million people in the whole of this huge country, 20,000 people that’s a substantial movement! A rally was addressed by S Ganbaatar, president of the Mongolian Confederation of Trade Unions: “We demand that the government of Mongolia take concrete action to stop the rising consumer prices which enrich a few companies and make lives of thousands of Mongolians unbearable.” He said the price of a 25-kilogram, or 55-pound, bag of flour rose to $21.40 from $7.70 four months ago. A consequence of this is that the price of a loaf of bread went up 50 percent at the start of last week. |

Mr Ganbaatar said the confederation would organize a nationwide strike if the government did not act to lower prices. During the Soviet period Mongolia was virtually self sufficient in wheat grain. However, since the 1990s privatisation of collectivised agriculture and turning the food regime on to the market has meant that more of the population’s daily food needs have been met by what were cheaper foreign imports. Now, with a global crisis in food prices, ordinary Mongolians are feeling the strain.”

2008 Parliamentary Elections in Mongolia

In July 2008, Mongolia held its fifth parliamentary elections since becoming a democracy in the early 1990s. A total of 356 candidates, including 28 incumbent members of parliament fought for 76 seats in the Great Hural. Vote counting began soon after the polls closed at 8:00pm local time. A new voting process caused some delays in counting. Some 1,800 polling stations located in schools, libraries, gymnasiums and other public buildings accommodated Mongolia's 1.5 million eligible voters. In remote areas, nomadic herders cast ballots at temporary voting yurts scattered across the country's vast steppes and deserts. Herders were expected to have to travel up to 30 or 40 kilometres to cast their ballots while election workers on motorbikes took "mobile ballot boxes" to people too old or sick to travel. [Source: AFP, July 1, 2008 |+|]

The Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) was declared the winners. It won 47 of the 76 seats in parliament while its main rival, the Democratic Party, took 26. Electoral officials rejected allegations of fraud and vote-rigging. The results were announced by the country's election commission in a live broadcast on state-run television two days after the election. Wrangling over how to exploit recently discovered mineral deposits, including gold and coal, dominated the election campaign, having delayed foreign investment deals. The MPRP wants the government to hold the majority stake, while the Democratic party says private Mongolian companies should be able to hold it. [Source: Al-Jazeera, July 3, 2008]

AFP reported: “Early risers had queued ahead of the polls opening and watched as election officials locked ballot boxes and provided voting instructions. Many came dressed in silk cloaks, known as deels, which are reserved for special occasions and holidays. Inside a Sukhbaatar district polling station — usually used as a basketball court — elders with war medals pinned to their chests were invited to cast the first ballots of the day. Despite strong midday thunderstorms that caused flooding in parts of the capital, high voter turnout was reported across the country, with more than 80 per cent in some areas. |+|

“The elections are widely viewed as a political re-shuffle necessary to kick-start mining legislation and business contracts left over by the outgoing parliament. The nascent mining industry has given the government a budget surplus for the past three years and greater riches are expected from a soon-to-be tapped US$38 billion ($52 billion) copper deposit in the Gobi Desert. The two major parties, the Democrats and the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP), have each promised large payouts to the general public if they win the election. "The Democrats made a promise to give one million tughrik ($1,200) to every Mongolian, but they were trumped by the MPRP who offered 1.5 million tughrik," said Luvsandendeviin Sumati director of the the non-profit Sant Maral Foundation. "After that the Democrats had nothing else to offer."

“The electorate is hungry for new leadership and many voters have indicated they may switch to smaller parties and independents. "I didn't vote for the Democrats or the MPRP," said 74-year-old Namkhai Sanjid as she left a polling station in Sukhbaatar. "They have been in power for many years but didn't do enough for the people. So I chose young candidates." At a polling station in Yarmag, a poor neighbourhood of Ulaanbaatar, a group of 18-year-old women voting for the first time said they supported the Democrats. "The Democrats are a young party. They have fresh ideas and they are creative. They can do something good for the country," said Olzii Enkhzaya. "The MPRP has been in power before but nothing has changed."

Riots After the 2008 Mongolian Elections Leave Five Dead

Rioting sparked by allegations of election fraud left five people dead and more than 300 injured and prompted the president of Mongolia to declare a state of emergency yesterday. Tania Branigan wrote in The Guardian: “The capital, Ulaanbaatar, saw its worst violence in decades as thousands of rock-throwing protesters besieged the offices of the ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary party, torching the building and overturning vehicles before police drove them away with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.” [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, July 2, 3, 2008 ]

“The government said 220 civilians and 108 servicemen were hurt and about 700 protesters were detained. "The situation in the capital city is relatively normal but the troops need to stay in the street," the police chief, Amarbold, said on state TV. Armoured vehicles were stationed at the heart of the city. The state of emergency, issued early this morning, is the first in Mongolia's history. The four-day order bans protests, halts alcohol sales, allows security forces to use teargas and rubber bullets to break up demonstrations, and outlaws broadcasts by any channel other than state television.

“President Nambaryn Enkhbayar, a ruling-party member, acknowledged complaints about the results but appealed for calm, promising an investigation into any irregularities. "Let's sit down and solve the election fraud," he said on national TV.Protesters initially complained two seats should have gone to the small Civic Movement party, which appears to have played a leading role in protests. The main opposition Democratic party then claimed that it had won the election. Foreign observers said that overall the election was free and fair, although new rules had led to procedural problems and confusion over counting.

“The Democrats said they did not accept the projected outcome, but disavowed any involvement in violence. Democrat leader Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, who disavowed the riots, said: "If most people voted for us why did we lose? We lost because... corrupt people changed the results...From the Sea of Japan to the eastern border of Europe, we're the only functioning democracy and we have a duty to save it." [Source: , BBC]

Eyewitness Reports and Analysis of 2008 Mongolian Election Riots

The BBC reported: “The clashes saw thousands of rock-throwing protesters battle with police as they mobbed the headquarters of the ruling MPRP and set it on fire. The demonstrators also attacked the General Election Commission, demanding that officials resign.Several thousand people gathered on to the streets of the capital after the preliminary results emerged. The ruling party headquarters were set alight and government offices were looted. Paintings were destroyed by a fire at the national art gallery, Mongolia's Montsame news agency said, adding a Japanese citizen - thought to work for a news organisation - was among the injured.” [Source: BBC, July 2, 2008]

One blogger, an American currently residing in Ulaanbaatar, described watching the crowd "destroy[ing] everything they possibly could". He added: "The steel fence in front of the building was ripped from the ground. One section of it was used as a battering ram for the front door. Lamp-posts, air conditioners, windows on the side of the building, nothing was left intact. We watched as one fire was set to a room on the first floor." [Source:Tania Branigan, The Guardian, July 2, 2008 ]

Tania Branigan wrote in The Guardian: “Other reports said looters grabbed paintings from an art gallery, televisions from government offices and destroyed instruments from the national symphony orchestra. Monkh-Orgil, the justice minister, told a news conference that about 220 civilians and 108 servicemen were injured in the clashes. Around 700 protesters have been detained. He added: "We urge parties to resolve outstanding issues related to election results in a legal way and seek a consensus-based solution to the present crisis. "Police will use necessary force to crack down on criminals who are looting private and government property."

After the rioting one foreign resident said calm now prevailed in the centre of Ulaanbaatar. He added: "Things are pretty much back to normal - people are walking round the MPRP headquarters with a baby in one hand and a camera in the other. "[Last night] was a rent-a-mob crowd, not representative of the Mongolian population... Most of the people rioting and burning vehicles were really just kids."

Despite a wealth of recently discovered mineral resources, many residents remain desperately poor. Unemployment and high inflation has led to anger. "There's an awful lot of frustration and an awful lot of confusion among Mongolians about what's happened and who is responsible," said Judith Nordby, an expert on Mongolia at the University of Leeds. Dr Sergey Radchenko, an expert on Mongolia's socialist era and transition at the LSE, said: "It's a very new democracy and I hope they can sustain it now that certain voices are calling for changes to the constitution giving the president more executive powers [in light of the riots]." Analysts suggested that the riots reflected economic frustration. Luvsandendev Sumati, from the Sant Maral Foundation, which carries out surveys, said: "The outskirts of Ulaanbaatar have a lot of poor and frustrated youngsters who would use any pretext to get to streets and participate in any turmoil."

After the 2008 Mongolian Parliamentary Election

While previous elections had been plagued by wide-spread fraud, international election observers did not observe any evidence of systematic fraud. Elbegdorj and the DP have not provided concrete evidence of fraud and investigations into events surrounding the riots and resultant deaths have not been made public. After refusing to sit in parliament and asking fellow DP MPs to do the same, Elbegdorj resigned his positions in the party and Prime Minister Bayar invited DP members into a grand coalition with the MPRP as a gesture of reconciliation. This coalition, left the Civic Will Party and Green Party/Civil Movements, as a tiny opposition in the Ikh Khural. [Source: Dr. Julian Dierkes, Institute of Asian Research, UBC, June 1 2009]

Despite wide-spread dissatisfaction with registration procedures and election administration, no significant changes were made to the election laws ahead of the May 2009 presidential election. In anticipation of any post-election unrest, a massive police and military presence was visible in Ulaanbaatar prior to the election and the sale of liquor was outlawed on the election day itself.

Presidential Elections in Mongolia 2009

In May 2009, presidential election were held — . The incumbent Nambariin Enkhbayar of the ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) Enkhbayar was defeated by Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj of the Democratic Party. Elbegdorj won 51.21 percent of total votes while Enkhbayar got 47.41 percent. Enkhbayar was the first Mongolian President to lose re-election. While Enkhbayar won most of the provinces, Elbegdorj was surprisingly competitive in the countryside and dominated the vote in Ulaanbaatar and the two smaller cities of Erdenet and Darkhan.

Highlights of the election: 1) Unusually unified Democratic Party (DP) enabled Elbegdorj to be elected; 2) Rapid concession by Enkhbayar despite close result; 3) Some irregularities, but no evidence nor mention of election fraud; 4) Resulting cohabitation with Prime Minister Bayar Sanjagiin of the MPRP; 5) No vast policy differences between Enkhbayar and Elbegdorj; 73.5 percent (almost 1.1 million) of eligible voters had cast ballots. [Source: Dr. Julian Dierkes, Institute of Asian Research, UBC, June 1 2009]

Jason Subler of Reuters wrote: “From remote grasslands to the heart of the capital, Mongolians cast their ballots to elect a new president residents and investors hope will facilitate the country's efforts to tap its vast mineral wealth. The tight race between Enkhbayar and Elbegdorj is seen as a barometer of how soon the country will be able to reach a deal with foreign investors on a landmark mining deal on the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold project. Coming at a time when the young Central Asian democracy has been hit hard by falling mineral prices, the election pits Enkhbayar's pledge to beef up the rule of law against Elbegdorj's promises of change and fighting corruption. Both are dangling payouts from mining revenues and further help for students. [Source: Jason Subler, Reuters, May 24, 2009 ^/^]

“Voters turned out in droves in the capital, many dressed in traditional long silk cloaks known as deels, in a sign of their respect for the largely ceremonial head of state and symbol of national unity. Polling stations close at 10 p.m "Stability is the most important thing to me," said Sandagyn Bayarmaa, 46, who lives with her husband in a round felt tent and herds goats and sheep like much of the population. The countryside is the traditional base of support for the MPRP, the reincarnation of the party that ran Mongolia as a Soviet satellite through much of the last century, while Elbegdorj draws largely on urban voters. ^/^

"The most important thing the new president needs to do is develop the country, to pull us out of poverty," said Davaadorjiin Suvdaa, a 56-year-old retired worker. Mongolia now faces the imperative of uniting on what terms it can accept in working with foreign miners to develop the deposits of copper, gold, uranium, lead, zinc, and coal that it hopes will pull its nearly 3 million people out of poverty. Negotiations over the $3 billion Oyu Tolgoi project, set to be developed by Ivanhoe Mines and Rio Tinto, have dragged on for years as the government seeks to formulate it as a model for obtaining sufficient revenue from its mineral resources in future. Sealing the deal quickly is increasingly important if Mongolia hopes to realize its ambitions of becoming a mining powerhouse and take advantage of the next upturn in commodity prices, analysts say.

Campaign for Mongolia’s Presidential Elections in 2009

Dr. Julian Dierkes of the Institute of Asian Research, “As the incumbent, Enkhbayar secured the MPRP nomination easily in late April 2009. Elbegdorj emerged somewhat surprisingly from the DP nomination process as many had assumed that the July 1 riots spelled the end of his political career. No other parties nominated candidates and both independent MPs, Enkhbat and Oyun prominently endorsed Elbegdorj. [Source: Dr. Julian Dierkes, Institute of Asian Research, UBC, June 1 2009]

“In past campaigns, the MPRP had been highly disciplined while the faction-riddled DP had often seemed less than unified. The presidential election seems to have reversed this. The DP continued its emphasis on party discipline from the 2008 parliamentary election and – to the surprise of many observers – prominent DP members rallied behind Elbegdorj. Endorsement by the small, independent parties added to Elbegdorj’s credibility as an opposition candidate. In his campaign, Elbegdorj adopted an Obama-like slogan of “Should we change? Do you want change?” which was answered by “Let’s change” in the final days of the campaign.

Enkhbayar’s campaign focused entirely on his person and his role as incumbent president (he is pictured in the centre of the group below, wearing a grey deel and riding a light-brown horse). While the MPRP nominally stood behind its nominee, very few prominent party officials aligned themselves closely with Enkhbayar and appeared with him in campaign materials or at rallies. In one rural region, a local DP official told us that a nationally-prominent former MPRP official from this region was advising locals to vote for Elbegdorj. Opinion polls (illegal during the last week before the vote) nevertheless predicted a close win by Enkhbayar. On the final Thursday of the campaign Elbegdorj turned in a strong performance in a nationally-televised debate focusing on concrete policies and goals, while Enkhbayar appeared wooden and vague.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated April 2016

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