On Wednesday, in Mongolia’s parliamentary election, the electorate voted to re-elect the Mongolian People’s Party and Prime Minister Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh for another 4 year term.
The MPP secured 63 of the 76 seats, 2 seats down from the 2016 election, but still considerably more than the 51 needed for a super majority in Parliament.
The opposition Democratic Party, which battled the election campaign against the image of an unstable divided party, and a house that couldn’t stand in government, won only 11 seats, an increase of 2 seat from last election.
The MPP’s securing of a second consecutive super majority in the State Great Khural (Mongolian Parliament) comes despite a very turbulent first term of MPP government.
After the 2016 election Jargaltulgyn Erdenebat became the country’s Prime Minister and he appointed a cabinet that had 10 millionaires and billionaires who control major companies in Mongolia, including ones that are monopolies.
Allegations also came out about how Erdenebat used his political authority to spy on opponents of his within the MPP.
In 2017, the MPP candidate for President, and then Speaker of Parliament, Miyeegombyn Enkhbold, lost the Presidential election against martial arts star Khaltmaagiin Battulga.
During the campaign, Enkhbold was linked to an effort to sell government positions in order to fund his party’s electoral campaign in 2016, which he ran as leader of the MPP.
An audio recording also came out discussing this plan between two MPP leaders, which further damaged the party’s image.
Given the humiliating electoral defeat, the scandals only piling up, and the fact the mineral rich nation had to go the IMF, Mr. Erdenebat was thrown out by his own party, and Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh became Prime Minister, in October of 2017.
Khurelsukh early on faced a crisis, as the SME (small and medium enterprise) loan scandal in 2018, involved 14 MPs, 2 cabinet ministers, and other high level officials who channelled over $1 million in funding to family and friends. Though he wasn’t formally implicated in this, a large faction of his party revolted and tried to vote no confidence in his government.
The Prime Minister’s big defense was that 30 families which have enormous control in the Mongolian political system were conspiring against his government because their control was being challenged by him. The rhetoric was similar to what President Battulga used in the campaign. He survived the vote of confidence with 40 votes for and 33 against, as he built a coalition of both MPP MPs from his faction, and some opposition MPs.
In February of 2019, supporters in Parliament of the Prime Minister, passed a bill proposed by President Battulga to dismiss Speaker Miyeegombyn Enkhbold. In his place came Gombojavyn Zandanshatar from the MPP, who vowed like Khurelsukh to purge the state of the influence of those 30 families which have so much control over the country’s politics.
Towards the end of March, the President proposed a bill to parliament which allows for the National Security Council to dismiss judges, prosecutors and the head of the Anti-Corruption Agency. The permanent members of the National Security Council are the President, Prime Minister, Speaker of the State Great Khural, and Secretary of the National Security Council. Often attendees include the Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, Chief of the General Staff of the Army, Vice Speaker of the State Great Khural, Head of the Committee on Security and Foreign Policy, and leaders of parties in the State Great Khural.
Despite a turbulent term of MPP rule, the current Prime Minister appears to have a lot more room to maneuver especially after his recent re-election.
During this government, the major step of changing the restoring the traditional Mongolian script, as the official alphabet began, and the transition is set to take 5 years.
The biggest reason for the landslide victory isn’t the moves regarding identity, or the attempts of the Prime Minister to change his party and the politics of Mongolia, but of course it has been the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Back in January, the government closed its land and air borders with China, as the virus was starting to spread like a wildfire. The schools were closed early on by the government and all public events were banned. Citizens were banned from traveling to coronavirus hotspot nations and those returning from such countries had to self quarantine.
In February, celebrations of the Mongolian New Year were cancelled and travel within the country was severely limited.
Riding public transport in the nation’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, required you to have a face mask to prevent any potential spreading of the virus.
The government also closed some businesses while restricting many other businesses and activities.
Mongolia has only had 215 cases of the coronavirus with all of them being imported while no one has died from the virus.
The success of the Prime Minister’s campaign came down to strong and closed borders, the defense of the Mongolian identity with the change of the alphabet, protecting the people from the health dangers, and actually fighting the forces who control the country’s politics.
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