What are the issues? 

On June 28, Mongolians will head to the polls for nationwide parliamentary elections. These elections follow major reforms, including constitutional amendments that increased the size of the State Great Hural (parliament) from 76 to 126— Mongolia’s first increase in the size of parliament since the establishment of its 1992 democratic constitution.

This election cycle also features the return of a mixed electoral system (not seen in Mongolia since its 2012 parliamentary elections): 78 seats will be competed directly through multi-member majoritarian constituencies, while the remaining 48 seats are to be allocated based on the proportion of total votes captured across competing political parties. In total, 19 political parties and two coalitions are competing vigorously during a brief official campaign period of less than three weeks. Despite the wide variety of political parties competing, Mongolian politics has been dominated over the last three decades by the center-left Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) and center-right Democratic Party (DP).  

The ruling MPP has held a super-majority in parliament since 2016, and although it has gained generally positive public attention for prominently featuring new and younger candidates on its party list, the opposition DP is hoping for a long-elusive political comeback by promising reforms to boost Mongolia’s challenged economy and right the so-called wrongs of the last eight years. Meanwhile, the smaller upstart center-right opposition HUN Party is looking to seize upon momentum to gain a larger share of seats and attempt to bring more structural changes to Mongolia’s two-party dominated political landscape, which has been plagued by intractable corruption, and where the other two major parties have traded positions of power back and forth over the years.  

Why should we care? 

As a landlocked democracy sandwiched between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation, competitive multi-party elections remain vital to Mongolia’s continued domestic development and international image.  Demographically, Mongolia is a young country, where nearly half the voting age population are under the age of 35, but whether young voters (who have historically been less reliable in past elections) will show up to the polls remains uncertain. Additionally, corruption will remain an important issue for voters, as Mongolia has been rocked by several major corruption scandals over the last few years. Based on the latest publicly available polling data, Mongolia is showing a strong appetite for “new, young and clean” candidates, as well as growing public support for greater women’s political representation in parliament. However, despite indications of more favorable conditions for political newcomers, youth and women, analysts have pointed out that Mongolia’s recently passed parliamentary election rules, which feature much larger consolidated election constituencies across Mongolia’s vast territory and maintain a very brief official campaign period, overwhelmingly favor more resourced and well-known incumbents.    

What can be done? 

Under the country’s long-standing “Third Neighbor” foreign policy, Mongolia prioritizes keeping up friendly relations with its immediate neighbors, while also diversifying relations with other developed democracies such as the United States, South Korea and Japan, countries with more similar political cultures to Mongolia. However, despite the resiliency of Mongolia’s democracy, the country has seen troubling signs in key areas such as media freedom, having dropped 21 spots in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, as well as slippage in the country’s latest V-Dem Index rating. Mongolian democracy has proven to be resilient over the years, but with worrying trends domestically indicating a more constrained media and civic space as well as strong authoritarian impulses across the region, continued support from Third Neighbors in the form of democratic solidarity and increased economic engagement will remain vital to Mongolia’s “Oasis of Democracy.” 

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