“President Tsakhia Elbegdorj invoked Mongolia’s warrior hero Genghis Khan Thursday as he celebrated winning a second term in elections defined by a debate over inequality in a nation enjoying a mining bonanza,” Agence France Presse reports:
Thousands of supporters of the former journalist, who helped throw off decades of communist rule, sang democratic songs in the capital’s Soviet-style square as he delivered a victory speech.
“Thank you great Genghis. Today 2.9 million Genghises are waking up on the Mongolian steppes”, Elbegdorj said, speaking in front of a statue of the empire-building figure who unified the nation’s tribes 800 years ago.
The reference to Genghis Kahn, whose empire reached into Europe at its height, demonstrates the increasing dominance over the nation’s political scene established by the Harvard-educated Elbegdorj, who has also served two terms as premier.
“Since throwing off Soviet domination and embracing democracy 23 years ago, Mongolians have got used to electing their leaders,” notes The Economist:
But their sixth free presidential election, held on June 26th, marked something of a departure from the high drama of earlier contests. This time there was less acrimony, less campaign buzz, and lower voter participation. …. Oyungerel Tsedevdamba, a DP member of parliament representing a district in the south of the capital, Ulaanbaatar, said that since her party had only ever enjoyed such control for two single-year stints during the 23 years of democratic rule, it now had an unprecedented opportunity. “The DP finally has the chance to show what it can do. For the first time we will really be allowed to implement our programme,” she said.
“Mongolia’s resource boom has created vast new wealth, but also fueled inflation and worsened inequality and corruption among the ruling class,” AP reports:
While the terms of mining contracts with foreign multinationals remain a point of contention, Elbegdorj’s re-election should offer reassurance to foreign investors that conditions will remain basically stable in the country, said Doljinsuren Densmaa, a sociologist and independent political analyst.
“Elbegdorj’s re-election…is good news for foreign companies that have invested in the Mongolian mining sector,” Doljinsuren said. That is reinforced by having the presidency and parliament, known as the Great Hural, under the control of a single party, she said. “It means less shake-up in Mongolian politics and more stability, and political stability is what the investors want.”
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has insisted that Mongolia, which recently chaired the Community of Democracies, provides a more attractive and sustainable model of Asian prosperity than its authoritarian neighbors.
“We need to make the 21st century a time in which people across Asia don’t only become more wealthy,” she told a CD forum in Ulaanbaatar. “They must also become more free.”
In comments described as “an unmistakable dig at China,” she implicitly critiqued its model of developmental authoritarianism by insisting that economic prosperity without political reform was unsustainable.
“Another highly touted initiative of Mr Eglbegdorj’s party has been the decentralisation of budgeting decisions,” The Economist notes:
Julian Dierkes, a Mongolia analyst at the University of British Columbia, says moves to devolve spending decisions to province- and county-level authorities have been very popular in rural areas and certainly boosted votes for Mr Elbegdorj.
But some in the defeated MPP worry that the concentration of power in the hands of the DP, along with the term limit that prevents Mr Elbegdorj from standing for the presidency again, could prove dangerous. They worry he might engage in an unhealthy attempt to use the presidency’s judicial powers to mount politically motivated corruption investigations. Political rivals have reason to worry. But foreign investors are conscious that, in a campaign marked by appeals to resource nationalism from all three candidates, the president’s was the most moderate voice. They, at least, will be relieved at his victory.