Thoughts on Mongolia’s 2024 elections

Parliamentary elections were held in Mongolia on June 28, 2024. Having served as an international observer in 2024, I first visited Mongolia in 2006 for the United Nations and have been a member of the“800 Years of the Mongolian Nation”. I returned again for the 2016 parliamentary elections and the 2017 presidential elections. In past elections, the Election Commission was very secretive. Election Commission of Mongoliaand political party leaders were reluctant to speak to international observers. But this year every aspect of the electoral machinery was subject to surveillance. All locations where voting, counting, and tabulation took place were under police surveillance and CCTV surveillance. Police also photographed key stages of the electoral process, such as the opening of ballot boxes. Though technically a breach of best practice, police were present everywhere at polling stations, we saw no evidence that voters found this intimidating. As we discuss below, no political party refused to speak freely with us.

Modern Mongolia prides itself on its geopolitical independence, respect for democracy, and the rule of law, but its reliance on Chinese and Russian markets has undermined its strategic autonomy. Moreover, on measures of public freedom and political transparency in international relations, Mongolia ranks last. At the same time, it is a strategic partner of the West, receiving support from both the United States and the EU. Its current political woes make this great power a much better potential ally than the other way around.

Mongolia, which gained independence from the Qing Dynasty in 1911, was briefly a theocracy before the Mongolian Revolution of 1921 sealed its fate within the Soviet sphere of interest. Brutal Soviet purges and Stalinist collectivization in the 1920s led to the creation of a repressive dictatorship in Mongolia. Korlugin Choibalsan – replaced by a successor of his own choosing, Yumjagiin TsedenbarHe served until 1984. Although the country was officially outside the Kremlin during this period, Soviet rule remains evident in military oppression and the crumbling military barracks and other colonial Soviet architecture scattered throughout the country. These themes are Mongolian classics like An unforgettable autumn (1977), Wulin Tumur (2004), Wolfpack Killing time (1939), and Words from the Heart (2003) its contemporary politics, avoiding the film’s essential mixture of assertive independence and nostalgia for socialism.

Mongolia adopted a new democratic constitution in 1992. In the country’s first legislative elections in 1992, the former communist Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party won. Further political reforms and economic “shock therapy” paved the way for neoliberalism in the early 1990s, with the backing of the IMF. Modern-day Mongolia is a semi-presidential republic with a directly elected prime minister and president. It has a mixed majority-proportional electoral system, and has also made important reforms to protect women’s rights and parliamentary representation. So how can this recent election paint a picture of Mongolia’s future in 2024? In short, this vast country (much larger than the combined land area of ​​Europe) still has a long way to go before it meets the democratic credentials it claims to have.

Just before the vote, I spoke to the press office of the current Prime Minister. Mongolian People’s Party:

We want a new democratic future for the Mongolian people and to leave behind the corrupt mistakes of the past. The new Mongolian People’s Party will put “people first” and party interests second. We want Mongolians to proudly participate in a new era of respect for ordinary citizens and true economic prosperity for all Mongolians.

Oddly, this is almost exactly what President Batulga’s office told me. The president is Democratic PartyA center-right newspaper dating back to the democratic revolution of the late 1980s.

We cannot let our people down again. These elections are an unprecedented opportunity for Mongolia to take a legitimate step into the global democratic community. We have shown that we can take such a step by promoting the rights of women, workers and children, and by protecting our ethnic minorities. These elections are our chance to work even harder to make all these aspirations a reality for modern Mongolians.

of HUN PartyMongolia’s third-largest party, running in the 2024 general election, is taking a more cautious stance, reflecting its center-right leanings. A spokesman for party leader Dorjikand said Mongolians need to be more realistic about what the economy can afford.

We have seen MPP, Democrats and many other parties promising everything from roads to welfare for herders, but none of them have even remotely addressed the important issue of how to pay for their empty election promises. In fact, they are just as unable to offer solutions to Mongolia’s needs as the dumbest of environmentalists. They also fail to understand that ultimately, there are two big markets: China and the Russian Federation. If you told a small herder that he had to hire a disabled woman just to get a grant from the EU or the US Embassy, ​​that business would disappear. No amount of fancy democracy grants would put a goat on a herder’s table. The truth is that we have two big markets, and those markets pay us. If you told a herder to wait until they had 100 papers to submit to Washington or Brussels, they would say they’d rather give a little more money to the mining companies and get through the winter.

A spokesperson for Mongolian Green Party He, too, was pessimistic: “I know our time is still far away, but… will the Mongolian steppes wait?” National Alliance Purevdavá also stressed the party’s commitment to environmental protection. The New AllianceThe youngest party lists the environment and women’s issues as its top concerns — all of which suggests a political diversity that has been missing until now is slowly emerging.

As for the elections, I would say that vote management has improved immeasurably. While corruption is a constant in Mongolian media, the new methods of election management seem transparent. There is a stark contrast between rural folk voting in traditional dress, sometimes while caring for their pets, and the Central Election Commission’s highly sophisticated computer scanning systems that enter and analyze the vote results. A tough test of the fairness of a vote is usually the level of complaints from party observers, but frankly, there were very few of them. The results were largely as expected, the entire procedure was open to local and international scrutiny, and each stage of the process seemed transparent.

Other parties running in the 2024 election are Republican Party, Civic Unity and Participation Party, New CoalitionThese parties are all in coalitions or combined governments, so it’s not as clear-cut as their names might suggest. Preliminary results show that the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) received 35% of the vote, winning 68 of the 126 seats in parliament. The main opposition Democratic Party won 42 seats. The minor anti-corruption party HUN won eight seats. The Election Commission confirmed that nationwide voter turnout was 69.3%. Nearly all of the smaller parties scored small victories at times, a sign of future majorities.

It is not unreasonable to think of Mongolian politics as being consistently played out as a struggle between the traditionalism and successors of the “Era of Comrades” of the MPP and the more progressive modernist forces brought about by the Democratic Party. The HUN Party’s victory in eight seats is a sign of the future ““The Third Way” Political similarities between the major parties remain evident, and personality politics seem to be more important than history or ideology in Mongolian public opinion polls. I am used to seeing events in Mongolia as a repeat of the country’s famous films, with recurring themes of people’s rights, nomadic life, encroaching mining interests, and the clash between urbanization and traditional grasslands. Issues such as women, the environment and environmental issues were clearly loudly voiced in this election, but did not have much impact on voter turnout. Final result.

With a reduced majority, the MPP must now effectively balance power with its rivals. How this will play out remains to be seen. This episode in Mongolia’s strange political film ended with a de facto endorsement of the actual power structure. HUN materializes as a potential third-party rival in the future, and elsewhere we see some diversity in the performance of parties for women, environmental groups and other special interests. Looking ahead, Coalition government Conflict will emerge between the MPP, the DP and (possibly in the future) the HUN, which will mark the end of MPP’s dominance after independence.

Mongolian politics remain an echo of classic films laced with theory, with the major parties emerging as heroes with happy endings. Even more worrying, the elections have done little to address the most disturbing reality: Mongolia continues to depend economically on Russia and China. As in Mongolian films, one can sense the French truism that “everything changes, but everything remains the same.”

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