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Mongolia votes in presidential poll
Closely fought election pits incumbent against liberal opposition challenger.
Last Modified: 24 May 2009 11:00 GMT
 Elbegdorj, regarded as a liberal and populist candidate, is the only opposition challenger [EPA]

Polls have opened in Mongolia for a tightly-contested presidential election, nearly a year after deadly violence was sparked by allegations of vote-rigging in the country's last national poll.

Sunday's vote pits Nambaryn Enkhbayar, the incumbent president and leader of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary party (MPRP), against his sole challenger, Tsakhia Elbegdorj of the Democratic Party.

Enkhbayar has pledged to continue government support for his party's rural base, while Elbegdorj has pitched his campaign on reforming control of Mongolia's rich natural resources.

Elbegdorj, regarded as a liberal and populist opposition candidate, has said he will work to ensure Mongolia's natural resources are used "to improve the livelihood of the Mongolian people".

Landmark deal

Though the office of president is largely ceremonial in Mongolia, the contest for the presidency has distracted parliament from work on approving a landmark agreement on investment in the country's mining industry.

One deal involving a major copper and gold project is thought to be worth up to $3bn for the poverty-stricken country's economy.

The latest surveys put the candidates in a statistical tie, though some showed Enkhbayar with a slight edge.

However, there is concern that a closely fought presidential election could increase the risk of post-election violence and allegations of election fraud.

Disputed parliamentary elections last year sparked riots in the streets of the capital, Ulan Bator, in which five people were killed.

Polling stations are due to close at 1400 GMT.

Source:
Agencies
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