East Asia Forum

One other pandemic yr, one other election for Mongolia

Writer: Julian Dierkes, UBC

By a castling transfer in cupboard and a presidential election, the Mongolian Folks’s Occasion (MPP) solidified its dominance in 2021. Persistently excessive COVID-19 infections lastly started to wane late within the yr, simply as a suggestion from RioTinto arrived to doubtlessly conclude a (re)new(ed) settlement to jumpstart the underground building on the large Oyu Tolgoi copper mine.

A man wearing a face mask following the COVID-19 outbreak casts his vote at a polling station during the presidential election in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 9 June 2021. (PHOTOS: REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj)

Forward of the June presidential election, Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh used minor demonstrations towards his COVID-19 insurance policies as an excuse to resign as prime minister. In hindsight, it appears clear that this was a strategic determination fairly than any contrition about pandemic failures. Khurelsukh was succeeded as prime minister by his cupboard secretary, Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene.

This castling decreased the danger to Khurelsukh that he can be intently related to any deterioration of the COVID-19 scenario and appears to have enabled his resounding victory within the 9 June presidential election.

The run-up to the election introduced some democratic fireworks that appear to be turning right into a worrisome sample in Mongolia — somebody or some political occasion crosses a line that raises elementary doubts concerning the stability of democracy. On this case, it was claimed by then-president Khaltmaagiin Battulga in April that the nation was heading towards one-party rule. Having watched an MPP-dominated parliament with an MPP president, to date, it appears these fears have been unfounded and should have mentioned extra about Battulga’s reluctance to cede the presidency. 

Maybe of better concern have been shenanigans surrounding fratricidal turmoil within the Democratic Occasion. An absence of readability concerning the reputable management led to a battle over the nomination of a presidential candidate. This delayed the nomination and thus the occasion’s capability to marketing campaign successfully. 

Nonetheless, this problem was largely of the occasion’s personal doing and the results of uncertainty round whether or not Battulga can be allowed to run for re-election underneath the 2019 constitutional amendments that restricted the presidency to a single time period. Ultimately, the occasion’s nominee, Sodnomzundi Erdene obtained the help of lower than 7 per cent of voters.

Politically, probably the most fascinating side of the presidential election was maybe the outcome achieved by Dangaasuren Enkhbat, nominated by the upstart Nationwide Labour Occasion. A tech and social entrepreneur who was a member of parliament from 2008–12, Enkhbat gathered over 20 per cent of the votes. Whereas some dismissed him as a candidate just for city elites, he obtained some help throughout the nation, and votes far past a small skilled class in metropolis districts. 

Whereas this implies some momentum and the potential of the Nationwide Labour Occasion supplanting the Democratic Occasion in the long term, the occasion’s candidate didn’t come near profitable a majority in parliamentary by-elections in October.

Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene was confirmed as MPP occasion chair in December and appears firmly centered on his Imaginative and prescient 2050 agenda for complete improvement and e-government agendas. Within the revision of Nationwide Decided Contributions forward of COP26, there emerged a extra pointed realisation of the necessity for extra political and regulatory consideration to be paid to the local weather change emergency. Discussions concerning the foreseeable finish to the coal mining business have at the least begun. 

COVID-19 infections continued to pull the financial system down, although at the least industrial mining was capable of resume. The extraordinarily cautious Chinese language regime at Mongolia’s border closed the nation a number of occasions, resulting in spikes in costs of shopper items and a few slowdowns in mineral exports, however these have been momentary, as was a gas scarcity in late summer season. Inflation and protracted poverty stay vital challenges for fiscal and financial coverage.

The darkest cloud over Mongolia’s financial system has been dissatisfaction with the agreements signed with RioTinto over the large Oyu Tolgoi mine. A suggestion in December to write down off authorities debt stemming from a 34 per cent fairness stake within the venture appeared to obtain an enthusiastic welcome from the MPP and means that negotiations may progress at tempo.

Like a lot of the world, Mongolia is watching intently to see whether or not the US–China rivalry develops right into a bipolar scenario that would go away the nation prone to being pressured to select sides between its instinctive affinity with democracies and its complete financial dependence on China. Fortuitously, President Khurelsukh has indicated his deal with worldwide relations by means of his attendance on the UN Common Meeting, suggesting that this space of policy-making that had languished underneath Battulga will obtain vital consideration. One choice is for Mongolia to tilt even additional towards the UN, one thing {that a} proposed peacekeeping coaching centre may accomplish.

Given the political constellation of an MPP president and prime minister, and settled occasion management, 2022 is more likely to be a politically calm yr which may result in some implementation of the various improvement plans the Imaginative and prescient 2050 foresees, particularly if a reconfirmed settlement for the Oyu Tolgoi mine makes long-term fiscal prospects safer. COVID-19 will proceed to threaten Mongolia’s financial improvement, difficult the restoration of its tourism business, however presumably additionally spurring additional development in agricultural manufacturing.

Julian Dierkes is Affiliate Professor on the College of British Columbia’s College of Public Coverage and International Affairs. He is likely one of the principal authors of the Mongolia Focus weblog.

This text is a part of an EAF particular function collection on 2021 in evaluate and the yr forward.

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