Many young Mongolians, not much older than the wind-swept, land-locked democracy squeezed between autocratic China and Russia, are disillusioned with the slow economy and established political parties, and could play a decisive role in parliamentary elections on Wednesday, Reuters reports:
More than half Mongolia’s three million people are under 30 and grew up during a time of rapid change following a peaceful political revolution in 1990 that saw the Soviet system replaced by democracy and the influx of influences from Hollywood, hip hop and heavy metal.
Some observers see recent changes to the electoral process as handicapping smaller parties and female candidates, The Associated Press adds:
“They have closed some space for smaller political parties, as majoritarian systems do tend to benefit two main political parties,” said Ashleigh Whelan, country director for the International Republican Institute, a U.S.-based group with the stated aim of promoting democracy globally.
“This can reduce the opportunity for lesser-known candidates, new candidates, youth, women and those candidates who may not be a guarantee in terms of winning,” Whelan said. Her organization does not expect either party to secure an overwhelming majority.
A developing country and former Soviet satellite, Mongolia lies between Russia and China. Since its transition from communism in 1990, economic growth has been fleeting. Yet democracy has survived. Ahead of Mongolia’s parliamentary elections, here’s what you should know, analyst Boldsaikhan Sambuu writes for The Washington Post:
- Independents are on the rise
Among 12 parties competing this year, recent opinion surveys indicate a virtual tie between the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and its main opposition, the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP). The Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP), created in 2012 by a breakaway MPP faction, is in distant third….
This year’s election is unusual in that a record number of independents — 69 — are running for office. Some independents are celebrity candidates —singers and wrestlers and the like — while several others belong to a newly created labor party that the electoral commissioner has refused to register. Turnout has declined from 98 percent in 1992 to 65 percent in 2012, and is expected to be even lower in this election…..
- Electoral rules are in flux
Free and fair elections are the “only game in town,” but the rules of the game change frequently in Mongolia. After experimenting with a variety of electoral systems in the past, Mongolia settled on a mixed majoritarian–proportional system (described in detail below) before the 2012 elections.
Electoral reform followed the highly contentious 2008 elections, in which the MPP won a surprise victory and the losing DP claimed fraud. Protest ensued, then-President Nambaryn Enkhbayar of the MPP declared a state of emergency and five Mongolians were killed by security forces. The DP eventually accepted the election outcome and joined a coalition government with the MPP……
- Major parties are on the decline
Why did the recent move back to a pure majoritarian electoral system receive bipartisan support? One can only presume that politicians from both major parties were keen to drop the party list vote because they are well aware of voters’ growing disappointment with them.
Since democratization, political power has alternated between the MPP and the DP. However, these parties offer voters little choice. Both governing parties in this mineral-rich country have pursued large mining projects as a source of growth, but shares from mining have not resulted in real improvements in the living standards for the vast majority of Mongolians…..
- What’s at stake for Mongolia’s democracy
New rules or not, it is hard to imagine a strong victory for the ruling DP. From record high growth of 17 percent in 2011, growth slowed to a meager 3 percent in 2015. The DP government engaged in a widely publicized and bitter dispute with Rio Tinto over financing a $5.4 billion underground expansion of the Oyu Tolgoi mine. Foreign direct investment dropped precipitously and the national currency plummeted…..RTWT