Opposition Wins Presidency in Mongolia
The opposition Democratic Party claimed victory on Monday in Mongolia’s presidential election and the incumbent quickly conceded to prevent a repeat of the violent unrest that followed last year’s disputed election results.
Supporters of Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, the victorious Democratic Party candidate, cheered upon hearing that President Nambaryn Enkhbayar of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party had acknowledged defeat.
Mongolians in both suits and traditional silk tunics gathered at party headquarters in Ulan Bator, the capital, celebrating Mr. Elbegdorj’s election as a triumph for democracy.
“This is a victory for fairness and honesty,” said Galsan Ishdondov, 54, a party flag draped over his shoulders. “Finally we will have the change we need and the justice we deserve.”
A landlocked nation of 3 million people wedged between Russia and China, Mongolia is a young democracy, having emerged from Communist rule in 1990 after the fall of the Soviet Union. During parliamentary elections last July, deadly rioting erupted in the capital after Mr. Elbegdorj, a two-time former prime minister, claimed the voting was rigged.
To prevent potential unrest this year, the government suspended alcohol sales on Sunday, the day of the vote, and banned large public sporting and cultural events. About 50 international election observers monitored polling stations around the country. Representatives of both parties were also on hand with video cameras to make sure the voting went smoothly.
Beneath the stern gaze of a statue of Genghis Khan in Ulan Baator’s central square, Mongolians celebrated Mr. Elbegdorj’s victory and breathed a sigh of relief for the election’s peaceful resolution.
“I’m so happy for this day,” said Naichin Chultem, 75, a retired accountant. “All Mongolians can be proud of our democracy.”
Faced with growing inequality, sinking mineral prices and widespread dissatisfaction with the political establishment, the candidates promised Mongolians a new era of economic stability and governmental accountability. Both sides claimed they would turn the country’s mining riches over to the people, rather than foreign investors.
The global downturn has left Mongolia’s coalition government scrambling to obtain a greater profit share of the nation’s vast mineral resources, an issue both candidates used to drum up popular support.
In addition, Mr. Elbegdorj vowed to reform the judiciary and route out corruption, while President Enkhbayar promised free education and increased rule of law.
The result should give Mr. Elbegdorj the political capital he needs to resolve vital issues for Mongolia, including the fate of the Oyu Tolgoi mine, one of the world’s largest reserves of copper and gold. Parliament has been embroiled for months in negotiations over a draft investment agreement that would give partial ownership of the mine to Ivanhoe Mines of Canada and Rio Tinto of Australia.