In pictures: Scenes from Mongolia

The resource-heavy central Asian nation is in the spotlight as parliamentary election exposes corruption allegations.

Steve Chao |

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia - International attention turned towards this central-Asian nation this week, as the country headed to the polls to elect a new parliament. Mongolia, the size of western Europe, is rarely in the headlines, but is increasingly becoming the focus of industrialists eager to benefit from the country's vast mineral reserves.

It has the fastest-growing economy of any country in the world - with GDP increasing 17.3 per cent in 2011, according to the World Bank, and with known mineral deposits estimated to be valued at around $1.3tn.

Corruption fears high before Mongolian election

Yet, despite this abundance of natural wealth, some 30 per cent of Mongolia's 2.9 million people live below the poverty line.

Many point to a perception of rampant greed and corruption on the part of officials, with Transparency International placing the country 120th of 183 nations on its corruption perception index - joint with Iran and Ethiopia, among others.

Public pressure has forced the government to consider placing restrictions on how much of a stake outside companies can have in Mongolia. That has led to nervous investors. A case in point came this week, as shares in Mongolia Mining Corporation, the nation's biggest coking coal exporter, slumped to a record low following speculation that investment rules would be tightened after the elections.

But the country's president, Tsakhia Elbegdorj, says he prefers to leave investment issues as they are, and focus instead on tackling the widespread corruption within the government. The this end, he has beefed up the powers of the agency responsible, the Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC).

Since its inception six years ago, IAAC officials say they've gathered evidence on more than 600 politicians and civil servants - including former president Nambaryn Enkhbayar, who has dubbed the campaign against him "political persecution".

Al Jazeera's Steve Chao was in Mongolia for the poll, and captured scenes from the city and the steppe.

Follow Steve Chao on Twitter: @SteveChaoSC