Mongolia Ruling Party Tightens Grip With Landslide President Win

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Former Mongolian Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa won a landslide victory for president, defeating two other candidates and strengthening the ruling party’s hand in its battles over mining resources.

Khurelsukh, 52, of the Mongolian People’s Party, declared victory after taking 67.8% of the vote Wednesday, according to the General Election Commission. Internet entrepreneur and third-party candidate Enkhbat Dangaasuren came in second with 20%, while Erdene Sodnomzundui, the former chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party, got just 6%.

The result not only avoids a run-off, it means Khurelsukh got the most votes of any candidate in the eight presidential elections Mongolia has held since 1993. Still, turnout slipped to an all-time low of 59% for presidential elections, with incumbent Battulga Khaltmaa barred from running by legal changes pushed through by Khurelsukh’s party.

Khurelsukh’s victory give the MPP -- the successor of the organization that ran the Asian country of 3.3 million during decades of one-party rule -- greater control over the levers of power. Besides serving as head of state and commander-in-chief of the military, the president can propose and veto laws and serves as chair of the National Security Council.

The local economy has begun to rebound from the Covid-19 downturn, fueled largely by demand from neighboring China for mineral exports including copper, gold and coal. Mongolia began allowing international flights earlier this month, with more than 75% of its adult population vaccinated against the coronavirus as of Monday.

The vast Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine run by Rio Tinto Group continues to take center stage in politics, with the MPP government challenging its contract terms and seeking more tax revenue. “Mining is generating the highest income and the population is considering that it did not get what they expected,” said Sumati Luvsandendev, a political analyst who heads the Sant Maral Foundation polling group.

Khurelsukh led the MPP to a landslide election victory last year after pushing through constitutional amendments that fed international concern about Mongolia’s future as an “oasis of democracy” between Russia and China. After working with Battulga to pass the changes, Khurelsukh had a bitter falling out with the president, blaming him for public protests against the government and resigning as prime minister.

The State Great Khural, where the MPP holds more than 80% of the seats, passed a law in April preventing Battulga from seeking a six-year term under the new rules. Lawmakers subsequently overrode his veto, effectively removing the incumbent from the field.

That left Erdene, who stepped down as Democratic Party chief after last year’s election loss, to represent the opposition. Enkhbat, whose former company DataCom bills itself as Mongolia’s first internet service provider and domain registry, sought to appeal to voters dissatisfied with the two main parties.

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