Anti-graft agenda aids Mongolia president

2013-06-28 12:07
Mongolia's re-elected President Elbegdorj Tsakhia of the ruling Democratic Party waves at his supporters Ulan Bator, Mongolia. (AP)

Mongolia's re-elected President Elbegdorj Tsakhia of the ruling Democratic Party waves at his supporters Ulan Bator, Mongolia. (AP)

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Ulan Bator - Mongolia's president has won a second four-year term, securing a mandate for his efforts to crack down on corruption and further integrate the landlocked north Asian nation into international society.

The result is seen as an affirmation of Elbegdorj Tsakhia's drive against graft in the nation of 3 million people, whose fortunes are being transformed by a boom in mining for coal, copper, gold, and other resources.

"We will join the president in his struggle to uproot corruption. We will work together to keep governance stable. We will utilise our remaining time in government to fully eradicate corruption and carry out tangible development," Prime Minister Altankhuyag Norov, who is also chairperson of Elbegdorj's ruling Democratic Party, told cheering supporters in the capital Ulan Bator.

With all precincts reporting, Elbegdorj won 50.23% of the vote in Wednesday's election, with Baterdene Badmaanyambuu of the main opposition Mongolian People's Party receiving 41.97%, the election commission said on Thursday.

Udval Natsag, Mongolia's health minister and first female presidential candidate, took 6.5%, it said.

Elbegdorj, who has a degree from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, was heavily backed by the urban middle class in the capital, which is home to about half of Mongolia's population. He was elected president in 2009 after serving two terms as prime minister.

Elbegdorj thanked his supporters on his Facebook page, adding that the other two candidates had offered their congratulations.

Resource boom

Supporter Haliunaa Boldbaatar, who gathered with other backers to celebrate at a plaza in central Ulan Bator, said people voted for Elbegdorj "so that he can finish what he started and complete the fight against corruption.

"I'm very happy that he won. It's a great day," said Haliunaa, who runs a translation bureau.

Odmaa Lkhagvasuren, an accountant who said she voted for Baterdene, cited the president's slim majority in the voting as a sign he needed to reflect on his policies.

"This means he did not receive all the public support. He should think about it," Odmaa said.

Along with fighting graft, Elbegdorj has promised to enact further legal reforms, increase public participation in government decision-making and boost Mongolia's participation in global institutions.

The White House released a statement from President Barack Obama congratulating Elbegdorj and praising him in advancing democracy. "I look forward to working with him to further strengthen the friendship and ties between our two countries," he said.

Mongolia's resource boom has created vast new wealth, but also fuelled inflation and worsened inequality and corruption among the ruling class.

‘Stability’

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."

In contrast to Elbegdorj's progressive, urban supporters, Baterdene represented more conservative, urban voters who are wary of further reforms. The celebrated ex-wrestling champion's party represents the former communists who ran Mongolia as a Soviet satellite until the 1990 revolution led by young pro-democracy activists, including Elbegdorj.

Baterdene has successfully leveraged the respect ordinary Mongolians have for their traditional athletes to win three terms to the Great Hural, Mongolia's parliament.

Udval, a physician who serves as Mongolia's health minister, is a backer of former President Enkhbayar Nambar, now serving time in jail for corruption.

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