Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia— On June 24, Mongolians cast their ballots to elect 76 members of its national parliament, the State Great Khural. Thirty years since Mongolia’s peaceful democratic transition, the country has proven resilient; however, its democracy is threatened by a lack of transparency, accountability and inclusivity in its politics. Low representation of women in party leadership positions, low youth voter turnout and barriers to political participation endanger the long-term health of democratic consolidation.
Following the elections, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and The Asia Foundation (TAF) hosted a discussion of the results and what the outcomes indicate for the upcoming local parliamentary elections, the country and the region. The discussion was led by Craig Castagna, IRI’s resident program director in Mongolia, and Mark Koenig, TAF’s country representative in Mongolia. Ambassador and IRI Board Member Gaddi Vasquez provided opening remarks.
A transcript, edited for length and clarity, follows.
Adam: Good morning to everyone in the United States. Good evening to everyone in Mongolia. I want to welcome you all and thank you for joining us today.
My name is Adam King and I am IRI’s senior program manager for Northeast Asia. We’re holding this briefing today because as you all know, Mongolia held State Great Khural elections on Wednesday. And while elections are not the entire story for a democracy, these elections were particularly important for Mongolia as you will soon hear from our speakers. I want to begin by laying out our schedule for this morning. We are pleased to have introductory remarks by Ambassador Gaddi Vasquez. We’ll then turn things over to Craig Castagna, who is IRI Mongolia’s resident program director. We’ll then hear from Mark Koenig, who is the Asia Foundation Mongolia country representative.
We’ll quickly have Craig wrap things up with a few final words. And then we’ll move into question and answers. A couple of quick housekeeping things. This event is on the record and is being recorded. We have closed the chat box, so it’s not going to be distracting, but you can send a direct message to me. If you’d like to ask a question, please use the raise hand function in Zoom. I’ll do my best to call on people in the order that they raise hands. When I call on you, I’ll unmute you. Please introduce yourself and your organization before asking your question. And as I mentioned, if you have any questions or issues or anything, just please feel free to message me directly.
Alright, with all of that out of the way, let me introduce our first speaker Ambassador Gaddi Vasquez. He was the eighth United States Representative to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. While there, he managed a U.S. multi-agency team responsible for oversight of UN organizations. Ambassador Vasquez served as the director of United States Peace Corps from 2002 to 2006, the third longest serving director in the Peace Corps’ 45-year history. Under Mr. Vasquez’s leadership, the Peace Corps realized a 30-year high in volunteers in the field, significantly enhanced the safety and security systems worldwide, and also oversaw the largest congressional appropriation in Peace Corps’ history for three consecutive years.
During his tenure, the Peace Corps also worked with six countries to participate in the president’s emergency plan for AIDS relief, opened an historic program in Mexico and directed the entry or reentry into 21 Peace Corps countries. I also know that while Peace Corps director, he visited Mongolia. Ambassador Vasquez’s public career includes service at the city, county, state and federal levels of government. And he began his 29-year career in public service as a police officer in Orange County, California.
He was appointed to IRI’s board of directors in 2018 by the late Senator John McCain. And finally, I just want to note that last year Ambassador Vasquez was the keynote speaker at IRI Mongolia and World Learning’s Annual Lead Alliance Summit held in Ulaanbaatar (UB) and we were very fortunate to have him here with us today, so ambassador, over to you.
Ambassador Vasquez: Thank you, Adam. I appreciate that and it’s a pleasure and delight for me to be able to welcome you and to thank you for joining our event today, organized by IRI and the Asia Foundation. As we know, [today] we’ll look at Mongolia’s recent parliamentary election. This is Mongolia’s ninth parliamentary election since it transitioned to democracy in 1990. In some ways, it’s [the] most challenging, despite Mongolia’s impressive effort against COVID-19, only about 250 reported cases, no community spread, and no deaths, there were calls, including by the president to postpone the election, and Mongolia decided that security and democracy are not mutually exclusive and that they “must go on.”
This election also marked the first time that international observers did not travel to Mongolia to monitor and comment on the elections since at least 2008, if not earlier. The only international organization that monitored the 2016 election, the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe], was unable to travel to Mongolia this year. Fortunately over the past 30 years, Mongolia has developed strong electoral institutions. The General Election Commission [GEC] coordinated with the South Koreans, who had successfully held nationwide elections on April 15. Although pandemic was still not fully under control, learn about holding an election during a pandemic, a major challenge to say least. Through the GEC’s efforts, Mongolia achieved record turnout, despite a global pandemic. Meanwhile, Mongolia’s robust civil society, which began observing elections in 2012, after receiving IRI training through USAID [United States Agency for International Development] funding took sole responsibility to monitor the election’s veracity and fairness. Organizations, such as Women for Change and Youth Policy Watch, should give the international community confidence that the GEC and the authorities were being watched.
As a matter of personal point, I’ve had the privilege of traveling to Mongolia as director of the Peace Corps and as mentioned as a speaker at the Lead Alliance Summit, and I have always been impressed by both the resiliency, the determination and the great aspirations that the Mongolian people have for greater accountability, greater transparency and a strong desire for an expansion of democracy. Mongolia’s democracy is not perfect, but what democracy is? And given the country’s location and some of the other challenges that it faces, we cannot take its democracy for granted. I do not want to sound grim, but I am certain that Craig and Mark’s remarks will touch upon some of those challenges and how the election might impact or exacerbate them.
Yet, I do want to recognize and celebrate what Mongolia has accomplished: 30 years of democracy and nine parliamentary elections, all while landlocked between the two largest authoritarian countries in the world. Mongolia is a success story that deserves our respect and support because the road ahead will be as complicated as the one that has already been traveled. Thank you very much for joining us today. It’s a pleasure to be able to share some thoughts with you.
Adam: Thank you, ambassador. That was great. Really appreciate you taking the time this morning. Next is Craig Castagna, who serves as IRI’s resident program director in Ulaanbaatar. He has 10-years’ experience in democracy and governance, community development and citizen empowerment initiatives in Mongolia. From 2012 to 2018, Craig worked at IRI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he designed and managed innovative technical programs that produced high impact results across a variety of political and civil sectors, including the USAID-funded Leaders Advancing Democracy program, which supports the next generation of democracy champions to revive civic engagement and serve as young change agents in their communities. He also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mongolia from 2005 to 2007. Craig, over to you.
Craig: Thank you, Adam. And thank you Gaddi for the opening remarks. And I just want to thank everyone who’s joining us here today. You know, Mark and I are very happy and excited to be here and to be talking about a very important event that took place just this past Wednesday. As Gaddi had mentioned, Mongolia’s ninth parliamentary election since the 1990 democratic revolution. And so, I just want to start off basically with a couple of caveats. First, I’m going to give a quick rundown of the election results and share a few takeaways. And Mark will also share a few analytical takeaways, but I do want to caveat that right now in terms of the numbers and the seats, they’re just preliminary. These are what were announced by the General Commission. The official results will come out next week, but obviously these are more or less the results.
The other thing I wanted to note is that obviously this is the second election to take place in Asia since the global COVID-19 pandemic. And as Gaddy also had mentioned in his opening remarks, we saw a pretty robust turnout of 73 percent, which is on par with the previous election and is actually higher than the election back in 2012. So on that note, let me just bring you through some of the numbers to give you a sense of the campaign and the results, and we could talk a little bit about our takeaways. So just last Wednesday, Mongolians across the country, came out to the polls and voted, voted in over 2,070 polling stations across the country. [Over] 400 in Ulaanbaatar alone and 606 candidates competed, including 121 independent candidates. There were 13 political parties and four coalitions that were competing for 76 seats in the unicameral State Great Khural. And so obviously these are preliminary results, but the Mongolian People’s Party, the ruling, MPP had a landslide victory. They picked up 62 seats out of 76.
This maintains their status as a super majority in parliament. They’ve had a super majority for the past four years. They’ll have a super majority for another four years. The opposition Democratic Party, the DP, picked up 11 seats. And so they thus added four seats to their existing seven. In the last election, in 2016, they had nine seats, but lost two after internal scuffles within the party, so they gained seats, although not many. And then we have one independent candidate out of the 121 who ran, who was elected, this is the former Prime Minister [Norovyn] Altankhuyag, who used to be with the Democratic Party. And then there was one person from the MPRP [Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party] Coalition, enquirers coalition and then from the National Labor Party or the right person coalition translated into English.
So as I mentioned, basically, despite COVID-19, despite flooding and heavy rains throughout the entire country, including Ulaanbaatar, there was very good turnout. And we even saw for the first time a significant jump in youth voter turnout. So the youth voter turnout in the 2016 election was right around 50 percent and in this past election, it’s at 57 percent. So it was encouraging to see that. A couple of the top takeaways that could help us understand the results and help us understand how this came about and what impact will this have, one important thing to point out is the Mongolian People’s Party having such a landslide victory was quite unexpected. What was expected by many projections, was that the MPP was going to win and they were going to win a majority. Obviously, the devil is in the details and when it came out, they probably exceeded even their own expectations, picking up 62 seats. It’s worth noting that under the leadership of the leader of the party, Prime Minister Khurelsukh, the party was very unified during this campaign, he campaigned all across the country.
He really served as that national figure campaigning in different constituencies. And he picked the candidates and throughout the campaign, you really just saw a very unified Mongolian People’s Party, as opposed to the opposition party, which was in a little different situation. But if you look at their platform, it was mostly focused around raising living standards and supporting mega projects, and essentially a vote for the MPP was an establishment status quo vote. I would say that the feeling on the ground here is, at least for the past few months has been quite status quo, despite COVID and everything that has taken place. So in terms of timing, the elections were well-timed for the People’s Party. If you look at the past four years, there were scandals, there were challenges in the first three years of the parliament. And in this past year through a series of different issues, including helping address the smog issue in the winter, the response to COVID, passing constitutional amendments, this really gave the People’s Party a big boost.
The second thing to look at is really of the election map, which was very advantageous to the People’s Party. So the parliament revised the election law just six months ago. So they recently revised it, this is a trend that we see every election, of course. But it essentially took some seats away from Ulaanbaatar and it instituted a multi-member majoritarian first past the post system where depending on the district you’re voting in, you either voted for two or three members of parliament. On average, across the map, there were about 20 to 30 candidates per constituency. And so if you look at the status quo vote being quite unified and the change vote being splintered amongst all of the different independence and third parties and the Democratic Party, it really described some of the results and the reasons why we’re seeing such a landslide.
And then finally, the thing worth mentioning is the COVID bump. The People’s Party did receive a positive boost from their handling of the COVID situation. There’s only 217 confirmed cases in the country right now and it’s all quarantined, there’s no indication of community transmission, local transmission or community spread. And so this really helped the People’s Party solidify their base ahead of the election. And so basically, if you think about what impact [this will] have on democracy and governance on civic space, Mark and I are both happy to share our thoughts on that, but I would basically sum this up as essentially a pretty much a status quo election, status quo victory for the People’s Party and a status quo election. And on that, I’ll hand it over to Mark to add some additional takeaways and analysis.
Adam: Thanks, Craig. Let me give Mark a quick introduction before he starts. Mark is the Asia Foundation’s Country Representative in Ulaanbaatar. He has served in this position since January 2018. And in this role, he oversees tasks [and] development programs in Mongolia focused on strengthening governance, empowering women, addressing environmental challenges and improving access to information and education. He brings more than a decade of experience in governance issues across Asia. Most recently, he served as a deputy director and urban governance specialist for a tasks program specialist group working out of the foundation’s office in Thailand, where he designed urban governance programming in countries including Mongolia, Cambodia, Nepal and Myanmar. Mark has worked at TAF in a full time capacity since 2010, coming from the international security sector advisory team in Geneva, Switzerland. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Johns Hopkins University and a master’s degree with a concentration in law and development from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Mark, go ahead.
Mark: Great. Thanks Adam, Craig, Ambassador Vasquez. It’s a pleasure to join you all today. I think to follow on from Craig’s point, this was [an] election that came down to the strength of the prime minister and his ability to consolidate within his party, project a competent performance in the last year going into the elections, achieve some things that put some of the scandals of the MPP government in the past, and really build himself out as the most popular politician, and the results showed. That being said, the system really was a large part of the story as well and the MPP vote share was more or less consistent with the results four years ago. It was in the low forties in terms of percentage. And it’s a complicated system to talk about vote share, just because of the nature of the way you cast your ballot. Three candidates in some places, two and others, but you saw a consistent vote share, and you saw, if you look through the results, that MPP supporters were more effective at voting in blocks, than the collective choices of those who chose to vote for opposition.
If you look through the percentage of voters who voted for the MPP candidates, the MPP candidates were often grouped together in certain places and many of the electoral districts, whereas DP candidates or other party candidates were more split. It meant that those that did support the ruling party were supporting in part a ticket led by the prime minister, he had been campaigning nationally, not just focusing on his own electoral district. And they were convinced by the party itself, as opposed to just voting for one or two candidates. And you did see MPP candidates who got an extraordinary amount of the vote share, who were clearly popular in their own right, but it felt more like a strong group. You also saw a clear decline in the vote share given to the Democratic Party. And I think the difficult times that the DP has faced over the last four years were brought to bear on Election Day.
They’ve had a leadership that’s struggled to serve as a clear voice in opposition and [during this] election period, they didn’t really consolidate around the leadership group and most of the leadership group failed to get elected. And so you had the party chairman already indicating that he’ll be stepping back and you had a clear sense of a missed opportunity to really reconsolidate some of the group. And they showed a significant decrease in their vote share from the last election. But the big thing here is to note that while that was a significant decrease in their vote share, it was only a 20 percent gap from what the MPP received. And yet the allocation of parliamentary seats was overwhelmingly to the MPP. So receiving 42 or 43 percent of the vote share, and these are, as Craig said, not quite final numbers yet, and receiving more than 80 percent of the parliamentary seats indicates how the system rewarded the really clear consolidated effort led by the clear prime minister.
And as Craig mentioned, there was a split, especially in the urban areas where there are a lot more candidates between a lot of different, interesting similar candidates. And in the Mongolian system, campaigning starts very late and it’s very hard for new faces, new voices on the political scene to really establish themselves in time to consolidate that opposition vote. And that’s been the case, that’s not a new part of the system, but it does create a challenge for these new political forces that are interesting, that are emerging, but have trouble getting the timing, right. And the COVID-19 pandemic absolutely affected the ability to campaign in the traditional way. It was a slightly different campaign this year, while there were in-person gatherings, they were socially distanced in many cases, slightly more subdued. And it had a different atmosphere from most of the reports that we’ve heard. And I think that was somewhat of a challenge, but I think the timeframe that’s typical for Mongolian election campaign was a bigger challenge to some of these new forces emerging.
I think, as we look through the implications of this overwhelming result, I’ve heard recently in conversations with some friends who are linked to the MPP, that they were a bit surprised by the results. And they had thought they’d have a much tougher go in UB especially, and the results in UB [were] one of the most surprising parts. They had expected to really have a tough fight on their hands and they did remarkably well in UB, which is not traditionally their stronghold, they’re usually a very strong provincial party in the [inaudible 00:13:39]. And they invested quite a lot and it paid off and the name recognition and the ability to know the brand, know the message and have the prime minister resonate seemed to work. But again, the extreme number of candidates really led to a fracturing of the vote. I think on some level, the prime minister faces some challenges now because this reaction that we’re seeing in Mongolia, especially on social media, shows a lot more frustration with the system I think, than had been in previous election cycle.
There’s an overwhelming sense I think that it was expected the MPP would win, but this huge mismatch between the allocation of parliamentary seats and the level of support from voters is frustrating people. And you see online some feelings, some frustration, some wounds among a lot of people who mobilized [and] got excited for something new, and don’t feel that they’re going to get it. At the same time, I would give the MPP credit that they did not run out the same parliamentarians from the last four years. There was a lot of turnover, a lot of fresh new faces. It’s one of the youngest parliaments in Mongolia’s recent history, while you did not have any gains in terms of the number of women elected to parliament, you had more or less a holding. There’s 13 now I think there’s 12, correct me if I’m wrong, Craig, which is still at least consistent with the high watermarks, in Mongolian parliament, there’s a lot of work to be done.
But there are some really inspiring leaders that we know of who’ve emerged as a new members of this parliament, who are younger or who are women who are technocratic in their background. And it does feel a bit fresh, despite it being this overwhelming majority again. And I do think that was a part of a smart elections’ strategy and it helped them get over some of the scandals of the past. And you did see a couple candidates who were suffering from some residual scandals, actually underperform. You had some quite prominent members of the MPP, even who didn’t get reelected. And so the voter didn’t punish these scandals as much as potentially had been expected, but there was a resonance and I think it did factor you’re into very effective elections strategy. Going forward, this super majority will give the prime minister a chance to follow through on the constitutional amendments and to actually put together the legislative packages that are needed to take those amendments and turn them into the law and turn them into the way that the Mongolian government is going to work.
One of the most interesting amendments that is going to have a huge impact on the coming months is the elimination of the so called double deal, which is before almost all of your ministers were members of parliament and now the number who can be members of parliament is going to be capped at four. And this was a very traditional way of consolidating your power as a prime minister within the parliament, was that you’d give out all of the ministerial positions and that would solidify your position. In this case, the prime minister isn’t going to be able to take that tack and he has a big choice ahead of him in terms of how he’s going to build this cabinet. Is he going to continue this effort to bring in fresh faces, maybe bring in more technocratic people [with] technocratic backgrounds into ministerial positions? Or will he shore up maybe his hold on the party by bringing in some old hands from the party who didn’t get put up for reelection this time?
As we said, there are more than 20 MPP MPs who were not given a space to run for reelection in parliament and how he treats this really send a signal onto how he’s going to use this mandate. Is it going to be a moment of change, which the candidate list suggested it could be despite the continuity in terms of the number of seats? Or is it going to be something that may [show] more of a power consolidation as opposed to an effort to really deliver something new in terms of governance? The next year is also going to be tough because we all know that the economic bite has started to hit in Mongolia from the pandemic, but it hasn’t had the full impact yet. And what was supposed to be a year of close to 6 percent growth is now projected to be year of a 1 percent contraction in the economy. And that’s going to create a whole host of issues. The MPPs platform was in many ways, surprisingly pro-mining I guess you could say.
[It’s] not necessarily a pro-foreign investment, we’ll see how that plays out, but it’s really focused on mega projects, mega investments. And it had sent a clear message that they want to continue to develop the extractive sector in a major way. And I think that message maybe will mute some of the concerns that came out with the constitutional amendment, where the definition of mineral resources as kind of a public good was potentially seen as a signal towards almost a nationalizing of resources. And we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but I think the MPP rolled out a vision that really saw an investment in the extractive sector as the way forward. So I think there’s a chance that the economic challenges ahead may help them double down on that decision to really try and search for the new OT, the new big project. And that also will have an impact on their popularity as the resource extraction remains [a] controversial topic in Mongolia. And there are quite a lot of opponents of some of the large projects that have been started and explored in the past.
So we have a very interesting time ahead, despite results that were in some ways predictable and in some ways, maybe a little bit more status quo than we had even thought. I think for Mongolia’s democracy, as Craig said, you have a lot of positive signs. I mean, the fact that it was a rainy day and it was a COVID-19 day and we still had even turnout was really positive. The youth turnout was certainly a positive message. There was a good energy, I think, leading into the elections, but because of this result, that will be frustrating to a significant number, the population again, because there’s this disparity between the vote share and the seats and election, there are going to be a lot of people who are asking questions about the system. And I think it may be a really rigorous debate on what kind of election system Mongolia wants in the next couple of years.
And it may be an empowered prime minister who’s interested to put a positive foot forward and have a good discussion on what maybe possible for them to consider, something that is more of a consensus around what the system should be. We’ve tried basically everything at this point, except for maybe, peer proportional representation. Maybe it’s time to really have a national conversation about what’s working rather than have this last minute adjustment that we’ve done several times in the past. So yeah, a really interesting election to discuss, I think, and certainly happy to have a good conversation with those who joined us on the call. Thank you.
Adam: Thanks Mark. Appreciate it. I’m going to hand things back over to Craig for some last minute things, but right before I do, I just want to say if anyone right after Craig speaks, we’ll enter the question answer, so please do raise your hand and I’ll call on you. Also, if you do want to ask a question, please make sure that your name that is presented [identifies your name correctly]. Craig, back over to you.
Craig: Yeah. And so just to add on, Mark covered a lot of points there, [I just want] to add onto [a] couple of key points he made, [then] we can talk further about it and there could be some follow-up questions on it. But yes, there will be some disappointment in terms of the difference between the share of seats that the People’s Party received (over 80 percent of the seats in parliament) and the actual popular vote, which is not even a majority. It’s in the lower forties. We’re already seeing this now. This is only two days after the election, this is really fresh news. It’s breaking the smaller parties and including the Democratic Party, are now calling for either a recount or an investigation into the results. So it didn’t take long for that to happen, but that’s something that we’re going to have to follow very closely. The former Prime Minister Nambaryn Enkhbayar from MPRPs Coalition came out today at a press conference and said that he refuses to accept the results and [called] on people to come together.
The Democratic Party just had a press conference about an hour or two ago saying that they would like a recount or to look into this. They also said they don’t want to stoke any post-election violence. So they want to do this in a responsible manner and they want to form a working group that will investigate it, they’re inviting the MPP to join. But this all just goes to the whole point of what Mark had just mentioned, is if people are looking into a large share of seats, small number of votes, lots of different independents, lots of terrain. This is something that we’ll have to look into. The other important thing to note is that really, and Mark hit on this earlier, if you look at the story of the MPP and their victory, it really is a turnaround story in and largely credited to a popular prime minister to hold it.
If you just go back just two years ago, the People’s Party had very huge scandals that they were dealing with. They had lots of different issues that were going on, the former head of the party, the speaker, there were mass protests to have him step down. And so it’s really just a story of just over the past year, a lot of things came into place, a lot of things worked out and part of that could be, not just the handling of COVID, but it’s also important to think about how much of this is COVID distraction. The MPP and the ruling government has been credited with a competent handling of the COVID crisis [inaudible 00:00:07]. That’s all we’ve been hearing about since January. Every night you hear on the news, it’s all COVID, all the time. And what’s interesting about that is, and Mark had said this, obviously the economic situation is not great right now. It’s going to remain challenged for a long time. The tughrik [Mongolian currency] is weak. Many of these different things that typically in the past elections, exchange rates are on the news every night and they’re big political talking points, but over the past year COVID has not, has really just started [inaudible 00:50:42] and it’s all been about COVID. That has really turned around the fortunes of the People’s Party. But yeah, on that note, I mean, there’s lots we could talk about here, and so I think we could just open it up to questions.
Adam: Great. Thanks, Craig. We had two questions that were submitted in advance actually. So I’ll ask those on behalf of the person who submitted them.
The first question is, what is the percentage of the Buddhist population in Mongolia? And the second is, what impact do Chinese businesses and government influence Mongolia?
Craig: Yeah. So in terms of the Buddhist population, it’s statistically about half of the country are Buddhist, and about a third are atheist or don’t subscribe to any religion. And of course, there’s the Muslim minority, [which] mostly lives in the Western part of the country [and] is about 5 percent of the country. And you have about maybe 2 to 5 percent Christian.
In terms of Chinese businesses and impact on Mongolian governance, China has a big impact. It’s a large neighbor, right next door. It’s Mongolia’s biggest trading partner. An overwhelming portion of its exports go to China. So China is a very important partner and is an important player in Mongolia. Yeah, there’s lots of different ways you could look into it, but there’s just no denying the fact that obviously Mongolia is landlocked, it has two very large neighbors, and it needs to get along with both of its neighbors. So China looms very large, politically and in business also, just because of investment and business and trade.
Adam: Mark, did you have anything you wanted to add to that?
Mark: Yeah, I’d agree with Craig. I would say that of course, Mongolia does have this third neighbor policy where they’ve been very clearly trying to make sure that globally they’re seen as, they want to be friends more broadly, but the U.S. has been a very important third neighbor, Japan and [South] Korea relations are very important to their foreign policy. So China is a big player, but the Mongolian foreign policy has tried to be fairly complex in their response to a somewhat challenging geopolitical situation.
Craig: And just to tie it back to the elections, I would also just add that in terms of what these elections mean for Mongolia’s foreign policy to that question, again, since the People’s Party received another super-majority, we’re looking at the status quo. Mark had mentioned the third neighbor policy, Mongolia diversifying its relations with other democracies, including the United States, South Korea, Japan. This is an important bedrock of Mongolian foreign policy, and it doesn’t matter if the People’s Party or the Democratic Party is in power. Mongolia’s foreign policy is nonpartisan in that sense, and so that should remain the same.
Adam: Great, thanks. Looks like we have our first question from Mary Eileen Manning. Mary, I’m going to unmute you. If you can just tell us where you’re from and then ask your questions. Go ahead, please.
Mary Eileen: Sure. I’m affiliated with Senator Sullivan’s office. I guess [inaudible 00:54:39] question of what the U.S. can do to help support Mongolia’s democracy and economy, both in terms of any kind of new initiatives, plus a reinforcement of what we’re doing there already?
Adam: Did you get that, Craig and Mark?
Craig: I did not, if you could just repeat that.
Adam: Sorry, Mary, you’re breaking up a little. So basically, just asking a question about what could the U.S. government do to provide more support to Mongolia, both in new initiatives or what we’re already doing and to keep doing?
Mary Eileen: Yes. Thank you.
Adam: Yeah. You’re welcome.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, there’s lots that can be done. One thing is obviously, if you just look at just over the past few years, the MCC [Millennium Challenge Corporation] signed the second compact with Mongolia over $350 million for clean water in Ulaanbaatar, in the capital city. USAID [United States Agency for International Development] also has been investing heavily in Mongolia. There’s now several proactive programs that are taking place, including a program that Asia Foundation and IRI are working together on to support women and youth voices and political engagement in the country. We also have the LEAD Program, Leaders Advancing Democracy Program, that supports the next generation of democracy champions, these are Mongolians ages 25 to 40, to engage constructively in civic engagement. So these are all really important steps.
There’s obviously areas where we can continue to pay attention to, such as civic space and any potential for backsliding. I think as Mongolia’s most important third neighbor, which is what the U.S. is usually called, it does mean something when the U.S. is paying attention, when they’re engaged, when they care about what’s going on, whether it’s in the courts or politically or in governance, this is just really important. Because again, Mongolians are proud of their democracy, and 30 years of democracy really is something that has allowed Mongolia to establish itself in the region, in contrast to many other countries in the region.
It’s something that should continue to be supported. And it’s something that I think really, the Mongolians welcome U.S. partnership when it comes to democracy, governance, human rights, and cooperation around those areas. Obviously, there’s opportunity for business also, to increase trade, and so there’s room to grow in terms of trying to increase the trade. It’s not quite as high as it was, let’s say, back in 2012, when the economy was much stronger. But trade has actually increased over the past year between the U.S. and Mongolia. And so I think just building upon the democracy, the values and building upon a lot of the progress that’s been made over the past 30 years is really important.
Mark: I think I’d add that the last year, the strategic partnership between the United States and Mongolia has been marked in the intensity of the exchange and the commitments being made by the U.S. government to Mongolia on things like economic diversification, SME [small and medium-sized enterprises] support. I think the main thing here, right now, is because we are at a period of good, solid focus on Mongolia, is that to keep that momentum going. And obviously with elections in the U.S. later this year, making sure that there’s continuity no matter what the results are in November, to keep building on this. Because I think we are seeing a recent high watermark in just the level of exchange. We had some very strong high-level visitors, and I think a good showing by the U.S. is important now.
In terms of other support that I think would be really timely, I do think that while right now we’re in the excitement of elections, we sometimes forget that public perception of political parties, of some institutions of governance, the judiciary, as well as parliament, are at lows in Mongolia. Going into this election, there’s a lot of frustration, quality of the performance of government on different levels. The government has initiated a couple significant potentially positive reform movements, if they’re done well.
One, there’s a new civil service law that’s just starting to be rolled out over the last couple of years, and major civil service reform would be a huge, important piece of progress for Mongolia. I think it’s an area where development partners could do well to invest in supporting that process. I also think that USG [U.S. government] has made some really good investments in supporting the judicial sector and independence of the judiciary in Mongolia. And there’s going to be a series of laws and things that are going to come up, to fully implement the constitutional amendments. And where the Mongolian government is interested in technical exchange and support, I think that would be another really important area for investment.
But on the economic side, I think the support for SMEs and the support for diversification of the economy has already been going on, it’s already been a core part of the USG support and the partnership. I think that makes great sense as an area for investment as well.
Adam: Thanks. We’ve got another written question that came in, so let me just read it here.
What was the reasoning behind no longer allowing overseas voting through embassies and consular offices abroad? Who led that lobbying effort for the last round of amendments to the election law? What was the justification for not allowing people in quarantine to vote, while people in at-home isolation had that opportunity?
Who wants to go first?
Craig: Yeah, so I could speak to that first, Mark. So basically, yeah, if you look at it, there were probably 180,000 Mongolians who didn’t get to vote because they were either overseas or in quarantine. I think in the past, we’ve seen people vote at embassies abroad, but it was taken away this time around. I think some of the arguments in favor of taking it away were just logistically, it’s difficult to run. And that it’s easier to do it say for a presidential election, where it’s a national election and everyone has the same choice that you’re voting for. And it’s a little more difficult to do it for a parliamentary election, where there’s 29 mandates and two to three candidates in each. So this is kind of what we have heard.
In terms of the COVID, the General Election Commission in Mongolia went back and forth on that. At first, we heard people were going to be able to vote in quarantine. There’s, at any given time, about 2,000 people in government run quarantine, and they shuffle out and then bring more people in. So then there was hope or an understanding that this would take place. There is something called mobile voting that takes place the day before the election. This is typically for home-bound people, elderly, who can’t get to the polls. And so they will drive to your home, bring the ballot box, and there’s usually a big group of people, there’s observers from each party, and it’s treated literally as a mini election. I actually got to witness this take place the day before on the 23rd.
So originally, they were going to do that and go to the quarantine, at least what we heard, the day before on June 23, take the votes, then in theory, you’d be able to take the boxes, count them, bring them to the actual precincts on the 24th and then count them. But in the end, it fell through and it didn’t happen. So I think there’s still some open questions as to why that didn’t take place. It is questionable to so many Mongolians, who were disenfranchised essentially, because they were either stuck out of the country, maybe they lived here, but they just can’t get back in because the borders are closed, or they’re living abroad, or they were in quarantine.
Mark: Yeah. I think to add there, there’s still a challenge of having to be physically present in your aimag [province] to vote where you’re registered, which remains a challenge. For certain people who are not registered to vote in UB, but are there for work or some of the other aimag centers, there isn’t a move yet to open up voting to make sure that it’s a little bit less inconvenient. Because there are challenges even for people domestically who’ve migrated. I think there are some serious questions to be asked about registration and how that’s been going, and if there are ways to improve the opportunity for everybody to have a good chance to participate.
I mean, Mongolia does do well in terms of voter participation. I think 74 percent is a number that a lot of countries would be very pleased with. But I think there’s significant space to improve. I’ve heard basically the same as Craig, in terms of why that change was made. As often with these elections laws, at the end, there is a unsettling quiet around it, where you don’t quite know what’s going on, and there was a lot of speculation at the time of what are they going to do with the elections law this year? A lot of it’s done really behind closed doors, so we don’t get to see the full debate.
We had a lot of it in the public about what kind of structure the elections could take, but there was a lot of confusion in the last weeks around the change to the elections law. And this is one of the points where I couldn’t say who was pushing for this point, but the logic that I’ve heard is the same as Craig mentioned, that assigning people abroad to specific places was the thing that people were concerned about. As well as, there’s always some concerns about the integrity of votes that aren’t cast in person. And that is, in Mongolia, where there are often still accusations and manipulation, that is a big concern, rightly or wrongly.
Adam: Great. Thanks. Our next question is from Renée Tricova. Let me unmute you Renée, and please go ahead.
Renée: Can you hear me?
Adam: Yes. Sorry about that.
Renée: Yeah, you can. Okay, great. Great to see everyone, Craig, Mark and Adam. I have a question. I mean, we had our own chat, so I’ve asked multiple questions, but one thing I didn’t hear you mention, I know it was of significant concern, it was the voter turnout of the Ger district, sorry if I’m pronouncing this wrong, in the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar.
So do we have an indication of what that voter turnout? Were there any issues there? As well as any other sort of considered marginalized voters, and what the turnout amongst those communities were? That’s number one, sort of a more specific question.
And then number two, more global terms, what the implications of these, I’m not sure if we would call it an entrenched status quo, but for the upcoming local and presidential elections? And that more so addressed in terms of new opportunities. I know you spoke a little bit about that, but I would be interested to hear more in particular as it relates to these, as you mentioned, new, fresh faces in the parliament. As most of the participants here know, USAID has supported a program and recently beefed up it’s support, specifically for DG, democracy and governance-related programs in Mongolia, and that’s new, in addition to our economic and security portfolios in the country.
Yeah, so those two questions, if you would, in terms of new opportunities, as it relates to youth, women and those new, fresh voices. Thank you.
Mark: Do you want me to go first this time, Craig? He’s been doing all the heavy lifting, I have to step up on something here.
So taking the questions in order. So the problem with registration is often the biggest challenge for ger area residents, just because those are the areas where recent migrants or unregistered migrants are most likely to be. And getting the registration in UB, if you don’t, it’s a major constraint to your ability to vote. But the voter turnout statistics are getting better, but [it’ll] take us time to actually crunch electoral, district by district, the turnout. Right now, the turnout numbers that we’re using are generally based on an overall number of registered voters versus the number of votes cast.
So we can’t say conclusively, but generally the turnout in the Ger areas doesn’t look all that bad in most elections, in part because the problems come with the registration part of it. And once you actually get into the elections day, people do turn out and there’s usually quite a focus among the major political parties on encouraging a strong turnout there because it is such a large portion of the city. So I think there’s not … We don’t have the data right now to tell a really rich story, but early indication is there wasn’t a major problem with Ger area turnout this year. But we’ll keep watching the numbers, and I think we could update you on that later.
On the local and presidential elections, it’s interesting I think this year. So taking presidential elections, you will have four parties that can nominate candidates. If you have a seat in parliament, you will be able to nominate a candidate. You have two potentially very popular figures, and the prime minister, who may or may not run. That’s the big question for everybody in the next year, will the prime minister decide to cash in on his political reputation? He would be the strongest candidate the MPP could put forward. That’s a big question.
The current president remains popular, but whether or not he will be a big part of the Democratic Party’s leadership going forward is an open question. We have to see how the DP reconfigures. And we will have the potential for other parties, two more parties to put forward candidates. So I think given the year that we have ahead, with the pandemic and everything else, it’s too early to really speculate, but I do think the presidential elections are going to be hotly contested and interesting because we’ll have more candidates. It could be a potential … If there is frustration still from the result of this vote, it could be the next big potential outlet. And of course, we all know in the last time, a sweeping MPP victory in parliament didn’t translate into success in the presidential election because they picked a candidate who didn’t prove up to the job really. And there was some backlash against the overwhelming sweep. So candidates will matter and the MPP will have to choose the right candidate, I think, if they’re going to further consolidate.
Local elections, the big challenge here for new forces emerging through local elections, is that new parties and new configurations in Mongolia traditionally haven’t been built from the ground up. And in a lot of other countries where new forces have emerged, oftentimes the local elections is where they make inroads. I think in the aimags it’ll be very difficult to disrupt the major party control for a new political force. It’s going to be far more interesting to look at the urban centers, and specifically UB, if anything new is going to emerge in the local elections.
Is there a potential for, let’s say, the right person, coalition, to use all of the fresh, new faces that they’ve introduced in the parliamentary elections to make inroads in the local elections? Hypothetically, yes, but that hasn’t been a tactic that we’ve seen smaller parties use in Mongolia in the past. Part of it is the huge financial costs of running national elections, and the ability to follow that up with another campaign that can match the larger parties for the local elections and turn turnout. Whatever excitement you generate is difficult.
And also, local elections just tend to be a little bit less personality and face-based and more party-based. The incentives to run for a city who are all positioned are just clearly less. So there is potential, I think, if some of these smaller new movements decide to really invest and do have some finances to make a push. I think they could capitalize on some of the frustration with the result that we’re discussing, mostly in UB. But will that happen? I think it’s really too early for us to say.
The fact that DP, as the main opposition party, did not come out of these elections in a strong position, makes it harder to foresee more competitive local elections at this point. But this frustration right now, if that’s the outlet, if some of the opposition parties can focus it on the local elections, I think there’s potential for it to be really interesting. So yeah, I think that is an open question, but if I had to make predictions now, I think it seems likely that the MPP momentum would be able to continue through to that point. But there are definitely a lot of opportunities for that not to be the case.
Craig: Yeah. Just to add to that, if I could just start with the second question since Mark just ended on it. Yeah. in terms of the entry points for women and youth at the local elections in October, definitely in the capital city, that’s where the biggest opportunity is going to be simply because again, in the countryside, the parties are pretty well-established, almost patronage networks, right? And so, especially in the countryside.
And whereas in the city, you have a little more of a dynamic environment. At the same time, if the DP right now, you’re probably very concerned about the upcoming local elections and especially the Ulaanbaatar city council. Traditionally, the DP does much better in the capital city. This election was not the case. The MPP routed them in UB.
And so, in order to do that, it’s really probably going to take some new voices, actually, and some new candidates to come into this. Again, if you looked at the voting data, especially in [inaudible] there were a lot of people who voted for the right people coalition and for these third party options. There is this hunger, especially amongst younger voters, for a third option, but it’s kind of interesting to track and see, is that going to translate into something? But I think if the DP is really thinking about this and they’re saying, okay, we didn’t have a good election in UB this time around, they really should sort of consider, maybe we have to try a different approach, really try to recruit women, really try to recruit younger candidates, and bring some fresh energy onto it.
If you look at the elections, the parliamentary elections here, what’s so striking is that you had really legendary people like [inaudible], who was a hero of democracy, one of the original revolutionaries from the early nineties. And he wasn’t even competitive in Henty, where he ran. He came in fifth or sixth place. If you look at Amarjargal former prime minister in the late nineties, again, a similar thing, really sort of this legendary figure of the democratic movement. He didn’t win. And they even announced ahead of time, two weeks ago, that if the DP were to win, he would be the prime minister. So if you’re really, the DP, you’re thinking a lot of these older, legendary candidates that were running, they’re not winning, and they’re even not winning in [inaudible 00:02:43], such as [inaudible 00:02:43]. That should kind of go into the calculation, I think.
But that being said, there’s also opportunity at the local level because simply, I don’t know the exact rate, but women are elected more at the local level in general. And so, if you just look at the local governments, the civil service, a lot of people who are really just running the elections, I had a chance to visit seven different polling stations on election day. Out of those seven, six polling station heads were women. All the polling stations were being run by women. And that’s essentially because local government is, especially at the administrative level, it’s run by women.
And so, this really makes the local elections that are coming up really an opportunity and an entry point to make some gains for women’s political representation. To your first question, just to add onto what Mark had said, yes. The [inaudible 01:18:48] data of who was turned away, who was disenfranchised, we don’t obviously have yet, but indications are that it might not have been a huge problem. There was definitely a lot of polling, even out in the Ger districts, but we will have to look into that. Another thing in terms of inclusivity that is important and worthy of mentioning is that for the first time, deaf voters had a chance to fill out a ballot that had candidates faces on it. And this was something that was lobbied very hard by the parent-teacher association of Mongolia [PTAM], which is a group that IRI works with, with USAID CEPPS [Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening] funding, for deaf voter education and deaf voter advocacy.
And so, we are seeing some improvements in terms of making the polling stations more accessible to persons with disabilities and also more voter education on that. The final note I wanted to mention on that first question is, basically, another important thing to keep in mind is that there is a window of time to where you could check where you’re registered to vote. And so basically, you do have an opportunity about three weeks before the election, about a month before the election, to go onto a website. It’s pretty easy and transparent. And you could just check where am I registered? Which polling station do I have to go to, to clear up any mismatch of oh, I thought I was interested over here or over there.
And with the support of USAID, we had a big voter education component to our women and youth program. And one of the campaign videos that we made, one of the animation videos was talking about how you can go onto that website, check if you’re registered, where you’re registered. And if that information is wrong, there’s a way that you could fix it in time so you could then go ahead and vote.
So I think in terms of some of the tools that are available to make sure that people were voting, I think we’ve seen a lot of positive steps recently.
Adam: Great, thanks. So, I know we’ve reached our time. We still have two more questions. I mean, if people need to drop off, that’s perfectly fine, but we’re going to take these last two questions and then we’ll wrap things up. The next question was from Steven Potter. I’ll unmute you Stephen and let you introduce yourself and ask your question.
Adam: Hang on Steven, you’re still muted here.
Stephen: How’s that?
Adam: There we go. There we go, yeah.
Stephen: Okay. I came to Mongolia in 2011 and I was representing a major U.S. investor in the country who’d been here for 20-odd years. And we were very significant in the mining sector. So today I represent a Singaporean investor in the automotive business. So, I’ve gone through a period of very high economic activity, obviously in 2011, and then lived through the tumultuous 2012-2016 period. So, by comparison to that period, when I had a very difficult time of sadly having to halve my employment, 95 percent of those were nationals. The last four years have been a lot more stable. So, to be honest, my report back to my shareholders this morning was, I think the result is more positive than negative. And that I’m hoping that we’ll see the new government build on some of the things they’ve been doing.
We market to foreign motor, obviously they’re all foreign motorcars they’re selling in Mongolia. And obviously, the gray listing last year caused us some problems because we have to buy vehicles in either dollars or euros. But I think the governments are making positive steps to try and extricate themselves from that position, which will hopefully make dealing with international transactions and hopefully stabilize the tughrik [to] some degree. So, I’m not really got a comment on the political side, but I just, by the way, I was, in 2018, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce, which being an Englishman is a rather unique position to hold. And I’m also married to a Mongolian. So, I do get a perspective from a national as well, you’re not supposed to tell the ladies’ ages, but she’s in her mid-fifties, so she’s lived through the social experiment and so on.
So generally, my feeling as a businessman here is that if we can see a continuation of the last four years in the next four years, with some improvements in critical areas, I am reasonably confident that we’re moving in the right direction. So I, like most people, I think I predicted an MPP victory. Like most people, I was also surprised that the percentage was the way it was, but to give it listening to what I’ve heard tonight, I can start to understand some of that. And one can argue whether that’s fair or unfair. And I think the MPP have also, they are bringing new faces to it. And whilst there’s still quite a bit of the old guard there, I think it’s good that they’re starting to bring younger people into the party and hopefully into the government, and more importantly into the cabinet so that’s, hopefully we’ll start to see policies that reflect that view of younger peoples, many of whom have had overseas experience, be it either in education or education and work.
So generally, as a businessman here, representing a foreign investor, I’m fairly pleased with the outcome, and I’ll leave it at that. If Mark or Craig want to comment, I’m more than happy to listen to what they have to say.
Adam: Thanks, Craig and Mark, maybe I’ll just throw in the last questions and you can kind of address everything all at once, if that’s all right. Two questions to throw at you, answer them how you will. So the first is with reelection of City Mayor Amarsaikhan as parliamentarian, do you have any comments on how Ulaanbaatar might be managed going forward? What might be the key city projects going forward? And the other part of that is, how would you assess the pre-election detentions of some high-profile candidates?
So, maybe difficult to keep brief, but let’s try.
Craig: [Adam], can you just say the last question?
Adam: How would you assess these theories of pre-election detentions of some high-profile candidates?
Craig: Ah. Okay, thank you. So real quick, and I’ll let Mark talk a little more about mayor Amarsaikhan and the projects, but basically to Steven Potter’s point on, yeah. I mean, in terms of stability, this election is definitely, yeah, the results would definitely say status quos and stability in terms of the progress that has been made over the past four years. I think if you look at the platform that the People’s Party ran on, it definitely was more friendly toward mining. It was more friendly toward the mega projects. They highlighted that a lot. And really, IRI did an analysis of the party platforms as soon as they were released at the beginning of the official campaign on June 2. And if you looked at it, different parties had different platforms, not all of them were business friendly, right? The NPRP coalitions was probably the lesser of the business friendly, very against mining and very critical of a lot of that, of foreign investment.
But in terms of the two major parties, the DP and the MPP, they really, at least in their platforms, really tried to emphasize the importance of investment, attracting investment, the importance of mega projects and mining to the economy. And so, we will have to see what this government does with the mandate that it has in terms of the business environment.
On the topic of detentions, pre-election detentions, basically just very briefly, there were six candidates who were detained during the campaign, or right before the official campaign started. They came from both parties. There are some high-profile people like the former Prime Minister [Jargaltulga] Erdenebat [were] detained. He’s from the MPP. You also have Nomtoibayar, who ran as an independent candidate, but he was formally of the People’s Party. He was detained. And you have members of the democratic party who were also detained [inaudible 00:01:29:15], who was running.
The interesting thing about it is there were some candidates who ran their entire campaign from detention, including Nomtoibayar, who ended up picking up about 15 percent of the vote in his constituency. And so, yeah, I mean, this is obviously something that we’re tracking and we’re looking at, and the timing of some of these detentions are obviously problematic. One important thing worth mentioning is that according to the law, if you are credentialed candidate, if you received your accreditation from the GEC, you need to get GEC permission before detaining anyone, and that did not take place. And so, you have people who were detained, who were accredited, who remained at detention. Nomtoibayar is still in detention right now.
The other thing is some of these people who were detained were active members of parliament, such as Erdenebat, and they have immunity and technically, the State Great Hall needs to vote and approve on whether they can be detained or arrested, right. And that also didn’t happen. So there are some questions in terms of the timing of the court, potentially interfering in accredited candidates ability to actually campaign. I know that in the case of Nomtoibayar, he was not able to campaign. And essentially, his father was his surrogate throughout the campaign and campaigned for him. So this is concerning in some respects and something that I think we have to pay a lot more attention to.
Mark: I’m just picking up on the city question. So because the mayor has won his seat in parliament as expected, and he was one of the highest vote-getters in his area, [inaudible 00:16:18], the kind of transition plan is unclear. It’s been a hotly contested mayoral selection over the last few years, and there are a few candidates among the vice mayors and others, but there’s also a lot of high-powered political players in the MPP who didn’t get a chance to run for parliament this time around. So I think now that the parliament has shaken out, next the cabinet will have to shake out. And then from that, we’ll start to get a sense on their strategy for UB. And it also depends, as Craig said, whether they want to counter the potential for new forces with a new kind of candidate.
And, we’re still waiting for our first female aimag governor in Mongolia after all of these years. So, it could be a great opportunity to do something really different with it, or they may want to shore up some of the, again, and bring in an old hand from the MPP who didn’t get a chance at parliament this time around, and keep them on side. So, it’s very difficult to say at this point, because I think they’ll go through the step of setting the cabinet first. And then that will be one of the most prized potential positions out there. And of course, with the UB mayorship, it’s not a direct election, but in more recent elections, the potential mayor has started campaigning a bit more. They’ve been naming them and trotting them out to start to present a kind of vision.
In terms of projects, each mayor will bring their own priorities. Obviously, you’ll have the big water project that should start with MCC coming down the pike and that’s, and also there’s a big Chinese investment in water. So I think there will be a heavy focus on water in the coming four years. Traffic and road, I mean, [inaudible 01:33:16] was a bridge builder in the end, he built quite a bit, and it hasn’t necessarily alleviated the traffic challenges much at all. And so, you would think that there’s going to be a continued look at how to put more infrastructure in that either reroutes some traffic or it gives people some alternatives. But those visions, the most recent one we’ve heard of was [inaudible 01:33:41] double decker buses, there was a, what was it? A cable car that was going to go from [inaudible 01:33:47] up to the city center. A lot of ideas there, but that remains one of the hottest political issues in the city. And so any new mayor would want to come with some idea on how to invest there.
There’s also been quite a lot of movement around solid waste management in the last few years, and whether that means, there’s a lot of talk about waste energy and different kinds of infrastructure that could be relevant. And there’s a few different kind of parks for tanneries, moving tanneries out of the city, moving construction producers to a centralized location, and how to get investment out towards [inaudible 01:34:26] that are always under discussion, but they haven’t made much movement yet.
Potentially the biggest story for a lot of folks will also be cultural heritage, which became a really hot topic in the city over the last year. And they knocked down one of the prominent museums and what they’re going to do with that land, presumably a [inaudible 01:34:47] museum, but there’ll be some significant decisions to be made on cultural heritage buildings as well, that will not be made by the city, but we’ll involve the city as their planning, zoning, and other issues going forward.
And another big issue is the moving of city government. At some point they were planning to move the city government from a central location out towards the airport [inaudible 2:20:10], but they seem to be waffling on that at the end, and whether or not the auction of major buildings downtown that are currently owned by the city will go forward is another big decision in terms of big initiatives that could change, that will be under discussion.
But yeah, until we know who the mayor is and what kind of vision they’re going to run on, it’s a bit hard to say right now. And I don’t see a front runner right now because there’s a lot of different steps to go from a parliamentary election to deciding on a mayoral candidate now. So, I hope that helps.
Adam: Well, thank you Mark, for that. I think we’ll wrap it up here. I want to thank everyone for joining, especially all of you still on the call, over time. I want to thank Ambassador Vasquez who unfortunately did have to run. Craig and Mark, for your time today. And yeah, let’s see what happens with Mongolia going forward. Thank you.
Mark: Thank you.
Craig: Thank you.Top