Democracy’s Hero: Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj

July 21, 2011
A lifelong student, human-rights activist, political leader and chamPresident Elbegdorj (left) speaks with IRI President Lorne Craner.pion of democracy, Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj embodies the very principles that IRI works to advance around the world.  Elbegdorj was instrumental to his country’s transition from one of the world’s most closed societies to a robust participatory democracy that is responsive to the needs of its people. 

As one of the 13 leaders that organized non-violent demonstrations and confronted members of Mongolia’s Politboro demanding their resignation, President Elbegdorj is one of the Founding Fathers of democratic Mongolia.  After studying journalism in the former Soviet Union, Elbegdorj returned home to lead the political protests which touched off the democracy movement.  During the fragile early stages of political change Elbegdorj’s writings provided the philosophical foundation for Mongolian democracy, and he made important contributions to the development of the first democratic constitution of Mongolia in the early 1990s.

A journalist by training, Elbegdorj also recognized the importance of a vibrant civil society in the project of democracy, founding the newspaper Ardchilal (democracy), his country’s first independent media outlet.  In his political career as one of the leaders of the Democratic Party, Elbegdorj has served as prime minister twice, vice speaker of parliament, majority leader of parliament and spent four terms as a member of parliament.  Elbegdorj’s first term as prime minister was highlighted by his efforts to deepen Mongolia’s transition to democracy and a market economy, while his second term was distinguished by his initiatives to curb corruption. 

Elbegdorj was elected as the fourth democratic president of Mongolia in May 2009.  Under his current leadership, he has focused on protecting human rights and encouraging decision-makers to engage citizenry.  To this end, President Elbegdorj created Citizen’s Halls, an avenue for policy discussions that bridge the gap between decision-makers and civil society. 

During Elbegdorj’s tenure as president, Mongolia celebrated its second decade of democratic governance, and on July 1, 2011, Mongolia began its two-year chairmanship of the Community of Democracies.