Q&A: What is at stake in Mongolia

Facts on what happened in the poor landlocked country this week and why.

Thousands of protesters claim the MPRP bought votes to win the election [EPA]

Riots in Mongolia’s capital over allegations of election fraud have dampened hopes for a period of stable government in Mongolia.

One of the world’s poorest countries, the UN said more than 10 per cent of the country’s population lives on less than $1 a day.

Here are a few facts on what happened this week and why.

How do elections work in Mongolia?

The country democratically elects its 76-seat parliament, the State Great Hural, every four years. The president has limited powers and is elected by universal suffrage every four years. Former prime minister Nambar Enkhbayar of the MPRP is current president after winning 2005 elections.

What were the results of the current elections?

Two main political parties faced off during the recent elections: the Mongolian Democratic Party and the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (the ex-communist MPRP), which declared victory after winning 46 seats over the weekend, according to preliminary results.

How do the two parties differ?

Mongolia is struggling to modernize its nomadic, agriculture-based economy. The key issue in the election involved how to tap the country’s recently discovered mineral deposits, including copper, gold and coal.

The MPRP wants the government to hold the majority stake, while the Mongolian Democratic Party says private Mongolian companies should be able to hold it.

What sparked the violent protests?

The MPRP has long been dogged by allegations of corruption and misconduct by officials and is unpopular in the capital.

After the party declared victory, allegations of fraud surfaced, centering on two districts in Ulan Bator that were awarded to the ruling party but were contested by two popular members of the Civic Movement party.

Later, protesters called the entire election into question, with opposition Democrats saying that their party won the poll.

In addition to fraud allegations, frustration over the economy might have played a role in the riots. Mongolia is a poor country landlocked between far more prosperous China and Russia. Its mineral wealth, which has prompted surging profits for some foreign companies, has yet to yield a significant windfall for the nation’s people.

What happens now?

The president has acknowledged the protesters’ complaints over results of the election but appealed for calm. The speaker of the parliament has called a meeting to address the allegations, but it is not known when that will be.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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