Mongolia’s Democracy Continues To Be In Question
As of last Friday, the Mongolian Democratic Party (DP) finally took control of parliament as Norov Altanhuyag was confirmed as prime minister. His confirmation ended weeks of political uncertainty after the DP failed to win enough seats in the June parliamentary election to form a government on its own.
Mongolian People’s Party leader Nambar Enkhbayar could only hear the news from his jail cell where he will remain for the next four years after being convicted of corruption. The charges, including the illegal privatization of a hotel and newspapers, have been fabricated and Enkhbayar’s three-day trial has once again highlighted that the health of democracy in Mongolia is very much in doubt.
Indeed, the judiciary continually demonstrated its lack of independence throughout Enkhbayar’s trial. The court would not accept new evidence from defense lawyers even though Mongolian law stipulates that all evidence provided during a hearing must be considered. Key witnesses were not permitted to participate in Enkhbayar’s trial. Most importantly, the evidence collected by investigators and prosecutors proved extremely weak – it was missing any factual data. For instance, a statement against Enkhbayar included the charge that “I heard from a friend of a friend that Enkhbayar made a call to…” with no data whatsoever surrounding the call, including any phone records.
Enkhbayar himself accused state prosecutors of twisting facts and once again connected the case against him as politically driven by President Elbegdorj. He said, “I’m not afraid of anyone. I will fight for justice and a new Mongolia.” His wife also pledged her support and vowed to fight this injustice by any means.
There is no doubt in my mind that democracy in Mongolia has greatly deteriorated under President Elbegdorj. The entirety of Enkhbayar’s hearing was public via live TV, with public opinion definitive that the prosecutor’s evidence was fabricated and that Enkhbayar did not breach any laws. It follows that Elbegdorj can no longer argue that he is fighting corruption and, most importantly, that the international community must focus on the corruption within his own administration.
This is, indeed, a crucial week. Enkhbayar is appealing to Ulaanbaatar City Court, the next level of the judicial system. If Ulaanbaatar City Court rules the same as the district court, it will be all the more clear that Mongolia’s democracy has been destroyed. Comparisons with totalitarian states such as North Korea will abound and for good reason.
I’ve said this before and I will say it again, time is running out for intervention in Mongolia on behalf of democracy and Enkhbayar. President’s Elbegdorj’s regime has shown no respect for free and fair elections or for the right to a fair trial and an independent judiciary. We in the West have a responsibility to campaign on Enkhbayar’s behalf and to fight for democratic values in Mongolia.
Doug Schoen, Contributor
Political strategist, pollster, author & commentator