Commentary on Mongolian Election, 2016

Those who enjoyed Alan Sanders’ presentation at the February 4 Doing Business with Mongolia seminar will be interested to read the following summary about the preparations for the upcoming Great Khural elections, which Alan has kindly written for the MBCC.

The autumn session of the Mongolian Great Khural (national assembly) having closed on Friday 5 February ahead of the Tsagaan Sar holiday, this is a good time to review progress to date in the preparations for the national elections on 29 June, 2016.

Previous elections to the Great Khural, and provincial and urban district khurals (councils), and the presidential elections, which are all held every four years, have required the drafting, amendment and adoption by the Great Khural of separate laws containing regulations on registration and time-tables for the preparation and holding of each election.

Last year the Great Khural invited members to submit drafts of a proposed unified election law, to cover all forms of elections in one document, and in response to the invitation various political groups submitted five different drafts. It took some time to roll these drafts into one, and despite dissatisfaction amongst some members whose parties’ proposals were rejected by the majority, the unified law on elections was adopted by the Great Khural on 25 December 2015. The law came into force on the day of its publication in the official gazette, but publication was delayed, and the text became available to the public only on 22 January 2016.

Chairman Battulga of Ulan Bator City Council pointed out that the new law had not adjusted the constituencies to match the growth since the 2012 elections of the capital’s population, now estimated at 47 percent of the country’s total. As a result, while electorates in the aimags (provinces) average 40-50,000 per constituency, the average in Ulan Bator is up to 120,000 per constituency. To address this imbalance, the number of Ulan Bator constituencies would need to be increased to 22 from 14 (in 2012). It was proposed that four aimag constituencies should have their number of seats halved, from two to one, so that Ulan Bator could have at least four more seats (rather than eight).

When the proposal was put to the Great Khural, however, it rejected any reduction in rural seats. Meanwhile, the opposition People’s Party rejected reliance on the automatic ballot-counting machines (first used in 2012) and demanded that 50 percent of ballots be counted by hand. The election rules stated that changes could be made only up to 31 January, and there was no time left to deal properly with the constituency size problem, and the final ruling was that the 2016 Great Khural elections would follow the framework of the 2012 elections: i.e. 48 elected seats and 28 nominated seats from party lists in proportion to the number of ballots per party, with the constituencies unchanged. In the 2012 Great Khural elections 540 candidates from 13 political parties stood for election. The General Election Committee estimates that in 2016 as many as 3,000 candidates may be registered, from 24 political parties.

Under Mongolian law, senior civil servants wishing to stand for election to the Great Khural must resign their post six months before Election Day, and consequently a number of officials have left their jobs. Several new parties have sought registration (some have been refused), but there has been much interest in Independent MP Ganbaatar, the former Chairman of the Mongolian Trade Union Confederation. He surprised many people by joining the National Labour Party (founded in May last year), and surprised many more by being elected chairman of the party two weeks later! There has been some speculation about his plans for the future, but his now parliamentary party is small, and seen by some as merely a stepping-stone to his nomination for the presidential election in 2017.

Democratic Party Chairman Enkhbold, Speaker of the Great Khural, may also fancy his chances as a presidential candidate. Other new alliances are being formed, the Democratic Party has invited MP Oyuun’s Civil Will Green Party and Megaproject Minister Enkhsaikhan’s National Democratic Party to join an electoral alliance. This could have the effect of reducing the Justice coalition’s Great Khural membership below the required minimum of eight.

Meanwhile, ex-President Enkhbayar’s People’s Revolutionary Party remains in disarray following the arrest on corruption charges and resignation early last November of Health Minister Shiilegdamba, the party’s secretary-general. There is still a vacancy, the Deputy Prime Minister Oyuunbaatar (Justice) is acting minister, but Prime Minister Saikhanbileg (DP), who recently defeated a no-confidence motion, seems not to want to appoint Oyuunbaatar minister, if that means Enkhbayar becoming deputy prime minister!

February 24, 2016