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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Mongolia edges in direction of autocracy

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On the floor, the Mongolian elections which passed off on June 9 could have regarded free and honest. Former Prime Minister Ukhnaa Khürelsükh of the Mongolian Individuals’s Celebration (MPP) gained with 68 p.c of the vote, competing towards Sodnomzundui Erdene of the Democratic Celebration (DP) and Dangaasuren Enkhbat of the Nationwide Labour Celebration.

In actuality, candidates who might have posed an actual problem to Khürelsükh have been sidelined. The 2 contenders who have been allowed to run had no likelihood of successful; they solely legitimised the election by offering a performative veneer of a aggressive electoral race.

On June 25, Khürelsükh took the presidential oath of workplace, thus bringing all branches of presidency underneath the management of the MPP. This victory was very a lot the results of a ploy by the MPP and the nation’s elite, which prefers to get wealthy on the again of commodity exports to China as an alternative of working in direction of full democracy.

Thus, Mongolia’s democratic improvement has been gravely undermined, as a single-party rentier-state emerges underneath MPP’s rule.

A well-engineered ploy

In 1990, a peaceable democratic revolution introduced in regards to the resignation of the nation’s communist management and the primary multi-party elections have been held. Throughout the next two years a bicameral legislature, nonetheless dominated by the Mongolian Individuals’s Revolutionary Celebration (MPRP), drafted and enacted a brand new democratic structure, introducing a semi-presidential system.

Not like many Jap European international locations, Mongolia didn’t dissolve or ban its communist-era celebration. Except for 1996 and 2012 parliamentary elections, MPRP (which in 2010 restored its pre-1925 identify, MPP) has dominated Mongolia’s unicameral legislature however has misplaced each presidential election since 2005. Within the 2017 presidential elections, Khürelsükh, then a outstanding MPP chief, labored with Khaltmaagiin Battulga, the candidate of the opposition Democratic Celebration, to defeat the MPP candidate and take management of the celebration and the premiership.

In 2020, MPP gained the parliamentary elections, securing a supermajority with 62 of the 76 seats. The primary opposition formation, the Democratic Celebration, scored poorly, successful simply 11 seats. However, it was anticipated that Khürelsükh would proceed his casual tandem with Battulga, with MPP fielding a weak candidate to run towards the incumbent within the 2021 presidential election.

Nonetheless, in January, following a protest towards the federal government’s dealing with of the pandemic response, Prime Minister Khürelsükh all of the sudden resigned, stunning everybody however himself. Although he justified the transfer with the necessity to bear duty, to Mongolians it was clear that he was making an attempt to rid himself of the political alliance with Battulga, to guard himself from the impact of the pandemic and to safe the presidency for himself.

In April, the Constitutional Courtroom made a ruling with a questionable due course of barring Battulga from re-running. In Might, the Mongolian Individuals’s Revolutionary Celebration (MPRP), which cut up from MPP again in 2010, signed a merger settlement with the ruling celebration to again Khürelsükh’s candidacy. Thus, MPRP member Ganbaatar Sainkhüügiin, arguably one of the crucial common politicians within the nation and a candidate within the 2017 presidential elections, was additionally disadvantaged of the chance to run.

Subsequently, Battulga made an try to shut down the ruling celebration by means of a decree however was merely ignored by the courts and the parliament. The DP then didn’t unite its splintered factions, and its former head and an ardent Battulga critic, Erdene Sodnomzundui, was registered because the official DP candidate by Mongolia’s Election Fee. When the marketing campaign formally kicked off, Khürelsükh and Sodnomzundui have been joined by Dangaasuren Enkhbat, a tech-entrepreneur, from the Nationwide Labour Celebration.

It was clear from the start that neither Sodnomzundui nor Enkhbat had sufficient recognition to compete towards the huge assets and entry to state establishments that Khürelsükh had at his disposal for his election marketing campaign.

The previous prime minister additionally clearly had the backing of Mongolia’s financial and political elite, getting intensive marketing campaign protection on non-public channels and having fun with a clean trip with the Normal Election Fee, which up to now had typically been at odds with candidates. Even Battulga ultimately gave up resistance and hinted throughout a TV interview that he was searching for reconciliation with Khürelsükh.

The ruling celebration handed out money to its members for its one centesimal anniversary in early March, timed World Financial institution subsidies for herders to be given nearer to the elections, and flooded public media with promotional content material.

Given these election marketing campaign circumstances, the outcomes weren’t stunning. Khürelsükh gained 68 p.c of the vote, Enkhbat obtained 20 p.c, largely from Ulaanbaatar’s economically better-off districts, and Erdene obtained a mere 6 p.c, on par with the variety of protest ballots forged.

In its post-election assertion, the Workplace for Democratic Establishments and Human Rights on the Group for Safety and Cooperation in Europe mentioned {that a} extremely prescriptive marketing campaign framework, obvious inequality of assets, extreme limitations on candidacy, overly restrictive media laws, lack of impartial info on candidates and the absence of debate had affected voters’ capability to make an knowledgeable selection.

Becoming a member of the ‘group of frequent future’

This consolidation of energy by the MPP is coming towards the backdrop of a significant financial disaster. Mongolia, the place almost half of the three.3 million inhabitants is both poor or prone to poverty, will get an unhealthy majority of its international alternate by means of commodity exports to China. When the commodity supercycle, a interval of sustained excessive costs for uncooked supplies, stopped in 2014 as a result of China’s decelerating progress, the financial system, which was just a few years earlier the quickest rising on the planet, tanked. This necessitated an IMF bailout price $5.5bn in 2017.

Following the crash, a debate emerged throughout the Mongolian elite about how a lot the quick turnover of governments contributed to the disaster. The thought was that if Mongolia had had a extra secure authorities, it might have averted the financial collapse by extra successfully managing windfall revenues, attracting international direct funding and transferring ahead with giant infrastructure tasks, resembling railways, pipelines, mines, energy vegetation, airports, and many others.

MPP took this a step additional and insisted that the nation can’t afford to lose the upcoming commodity supercycle – which is predicted to start out with financial restoration following the top of the pandemic – to home infighting and a focus of political energy could be conducive to the nation’s improvement.

Whereas relying on the China-driven commodity supercycle to tug the Mongolian financial system out of the disaster, the MPP additionally seems to be embracing the Chinese language Communist Celebration’s (CCP) “group of frequent future” narrative, which insists {that a} nation doesn’t need to be democratic with the intention to develop.

Since 2016, the MPP management have been a frequent customer of “CCP in Dialogue with World Political Events” conferences, by means of which CCP goals to win worldwide help amongst international political events and promote this narrative.

In Might 2021, US Senators Marco Rubio and Patrick Leahy highlighted this MPP-CCP relationship in a joint letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, particularly pointing a finger at MPP’s Secretary-Normal Dashzeveg Amarbayasgalan. As if to verify this synergy, when the Constitutional Courtroom was deciding the destiny of Battulga, who’s a well known Russophile and Sinophobe, each Russian and Chinese language vaccine deliveries to Mongolia mysteriously stopped.

When the parliament accepted the Constitutional Courtroom’s ruling, Sinopharm vaccine shipments resumed. A million doses of Sputnik V purchased by Mongolia by no means arrived.

By following the CCP’s narrative about undemocratic prosperity, the MPP appears to be taking Mongolia on a path in direction of authoritarianism. If the present development continues, the federal government will remodel right into a textbook case of an electorally autocratic hybrid regime that suppresses dissent, helps a loyal elite by means of pure useful resource rents and “pacifies” the populace with leisure and pro-government propaganda.

Such a regime can also be unlikely to attempt to diminish Mongolia’s overdependence on China, which at present receives 90 p.c of Mongolian exports. This is able to solely make the nation much more susceptible to Beijing’s coercive techniques.

Thus, underneath the management of the MPP and with the total approval of the financial and political elite, Mongolian democracy is dying a sluggish dying.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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