Mongolia Faces Questions Over Commitment to Democracy
But in a statement he called for “humane” and “transparent” treatment for Enkhbayar Nambar, who has been jailed for almost a month on allegations he illegally profited while in office. Mr. Enkhbayar hasn’t been charged.
The statement, dated Thursday, comes as Mongolia’s leadership faces mounting questions about its commitment to democracy and its appetite for foreign investment.
Mr. Enkhbayar’s family says his effort to protest his innocence and detention with a hunger strike has now landed him in a hospital where doctors are debating whether to begin force-feeding him.
The U.S. has voiced its concern about Mr. Enkhbayar. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said this week that Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, summoned Mongolia’s ambassador to discuss his case. Other U.S. efforts related to the “detention and health” of Mongolia’s former president are being led by the embassy in Ulan Bator, she said.
In his statement, Mr. Elbegdorj highlighted international and domestic “debates” over the case but said: “I cannot, and would not, advocate for a particular position on the recent arrest and allegations of corruption brought by the Independent Anti-Corruption Commission against former president Enkhbayar.”
Mr. Elbegdorj said judicial reforms, including protecting human rights and rooting out corruption, have been hallmarks of his three-year-old administration. He said the former president—a longtime political rival—should be treated humanely in a transparent process where “equal treatment before law is the single most important requirement.”
Peter Goldsmith, a former U.K. attorney general, who is representing the former president’s family, called for more action, pointing to the president’s ability to appoint antigraft officers and prosecutors. “I don’t find it convincing that the government could not act if they wanted to,” he said.
The corruption probe, which has included questioning of politicians and executives, reflect political jockeying ahead of next month’s parliamentary election, according to several analysts who term Mongolia’s democracy as both vibrant and immature. At stake in the vote is power over Mongolia’s rich resources of copper, gold, coal and rare earths, including the deals to exploit them and the policies for distributing the proceeds.
Investors say they are nervous about a foreign investment law that is winding its way through parliament and threatens to cap foreign ownership in mine projects by requiring 51% local control. The 220-member Business Council of Mongolia said in a statement this week the legislation would “undermine Mongolia’s development trajectory, which has been on a steep upward path.”
In research notes from Ulan Bator, Frontier Securities has described the turmoil as negative for investors. Still, on Friday, the firm highlighted news that foreign investment tied to the sector sent Mongolia’s economy soaring 16.7% in the first quarter of this year from the same period in 2011.
Write to James T. Areddy at firstname.lastname@example.org