Mongolian Discontent Delivers Opposition Election Victory

  • Ashleigh Whelan

Voters expect results, and when they don’t get what they want, their anger can extinguish the hopes of political parties. The anti-establishment mood that has appeared in other countries lately is certainly present in Mongolia as well.

Poor economic performance, rising inequality as a result of unemployment and ballooning external debt had Mongolian voters looking for change – and change they have created.  The results of the June 29 parliamentary elections have firmly placed the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) in the drivers’ seat for the next four years, handing them a supermajority that will allow it to create and pass legislation without the need for a coalition.

However, now that discontented voters have given such a definite mandate, they will have expectations.  They will want their voices to continue to be heard well after the summer Election Day has faded into fall and winter. In March 2016, IRI’s public opinion poll found that two-thirds of the 5,000 voting age Mongolians surveyed believed that by voting, they could influence decision-making – and now it will be up to their new representatives to make that belief a reality.

While observing Election Day proceedings in the south of the country where many nomadic herders still live, I saw voters of all ages who traveled far distances over areas with no paved roads to come participate in the democratic process.  At times, I wondered what motivated voters to travel such distances to participate in elections for a government body hundreds of kilometers away that likely has little impact on their day-to-day lives.  But as we moved freely throughout the province, I was reminded that prior to the democratic transition, even that simple act would not be possible as there were travel restrictions during the communist times that required government permission to travel between provinces.  For a nomad, that restriction must have been untenable – so participation in the system that protects individual freedoms is a right, a duty and a way to protect the decision making power that is vested in every citizen in a democracy. 

Only time will tell if voters will be happy with the change they have created in their political representatives, but one thing is clear – Mongolians can and will make their voice heard through the ballot box.

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