Mongolia vote count delayed by tech problems
The opposition Democratic Party, which had promised to more evenly spread Mongolia’s new mining riches, said it believed it would eventually be able to win a majority in the 76-seat parliament with support from minor parties.
“We believe that when the result is announced we will have at least 36 seats (of our own). We expect to win the election,” Democratic Party chairman Chimed Saikhanbileg told reporters.
But there were problems with a new automated voting system that was expected to deliver the results of Thursday’s election within hours, with the Mongolian Election Commission reporting trouble in collating votes from remote areas.
“The results from some of the voting stations have not arrived at the election commission because there is no Internet coverage in those areas,” commission chairman Namsrijavttulg Luvsanjav told reporters.
“Therefore we can not give results as yet.”
No timetable was given as to when those results would be known.
Mongolia is a huge and sparsely populated country of 2.8 million people wedged between Russia and China.
It is three times the size of France and many people still maintain nomadic lifestyles similar to their historic conquering hero, Genghis Khan, living in “ger” tents on barren steppes without electricity, and travelling on horseback.
The introduction of the automated voting system was meant to simplify and quicken the ballot count, after allegations of fraud during the last election in 2008 led to riots in which four people died.
Nevertheless, President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, who is a member of the Democratic Party, described the elections as a success, in the context of them being another important phase in building a stable democracy.
The elections were the seventh since Mongolia ended decades of Soviet rule in 1990, and the country has largely enjoyed a peaceful transition to democracy, albeit one marred by corruption among the political elite.
“On the heel of the election, we have moved further down the path of democracy and progress for this great nation,” Elbegdorj said in a statement.
Mongolia’s economy grew by 17.3 percent last year, one of the fastest rates in the world, almost completely on the back of a mining frenzy.
Mongolia has largely untapped coal, copper and gold reserves believed to be worth more than $1 trillion, and mining giants such as Rio Tinto and China’s Shenhua have invested heavily in recent years to start extracting them.
However more than a third of Mongolians still live in poverty, and many complain that they are reaping few benefits of the boom.
They say corruption is worsening among the political and business elite, while the foreign mining companies are being allowed to extract the resources far too cheaply.
“The mining industry is developing in Mongolia but the income does not improve my life,” Lkagvaochir, a 42-year-old herdswoman, told AFP after voting in the rural outskirts of the capital, Ulan Bator, on Thursday.
“I believe that is because Mongolia has corruption… the winner of the election should fight corruption,” said Lkagvaochir, who like many Mongolians uses just one name.
Many believe the ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) and the Democratic Party both have deep problems in this regard.
The parties ruled together from 2008 in an uneasy coalition until January this year, when the Democratic Party pulled out to prepare for the elections.
The MPP — Mongolia’s oldest party which held power during the Soviet era — had campaigned on a similar platform of equitably distributing the mining spoils.
But its chances appeared to have been damaged by a split last year when former president Nambar Enkhbayar broke away to form his own party.