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Mongolia’s Election Brings Diverse Multiparty Representation and Corruption Concerns

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Crossroads Asia | Politics | East Asia

Mongolia’s Election Brings Diverse Multiparty Representation and Corruption Concerns

The election installed four parties and one coalition in parliament, but also sparked allegations about bribery and vote-buying.

Mongolia’s Election Brings Diverse Multiparty Representation and Corruption Concerns

An election coordinator instructs people on how to fill out their ballots in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, June 28, 2024.

Credit: Anand Tumurtogoo

On June 28, from the capital of Ulaanbaatar to the very tip of northern Mongolia’s Khuvsgul province, Mongolian voters lined up at polling stations, many dressed in their traditional deel. Mongolia’s 2024 parliamentary election marked one of the most important elections in modern Mongolia’s history. The newly enlarged legislative branch – now with 126 members – will play a crucial role in shaping and formulating policies on Mongolia’s democracy, governance, and development.

While the ruling party, the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) secured a majority, winning 68 seats out of 126, the new parliament will usher in multi-party governance, with the Democratic Party, HUN Party, Civil Will-Green Party, and National Coalition all gaining more seats than previous years. The new parliament consists of representatives from diverse sectors such as mining, environment, education, health, biomedicine, disability, journalism, energy, business, and law. 

The MPP made critical political decisions early on this year. Its selection of candidates included younger generation leaders and increased opportunities for candidates to join from the executive branch. In the new parliament, incumbent Foreign Minister Battsetseg Batmunkh, Minister of Culture Nomin Chinbat, Minister of Digital Development and Communication Uchral Nyamosor, and Minister of Labor and Social Protection Bulgantuya Khurelbaatar were all elected as legislators.

The Democratic Party (DP), too, had strategized to select electable candidates and thus secured 42 seats in the newly enlarged parliament, well above its tally of just 11 in the 2020 polls. The DP’s successful candidates were headlined by Battulga Khaltmaa, a former president of Mongolia, who was elected with 60,078 votes. 

However, the DP’s slate also included a promising slate of young legislators. The youngest candidate to run for office, Tsenguun Saruulsaikhan, age 27, was elected, capitalizing on Mongolia’s need for energy reform. Other young generation leaders such as Erdenebold Sukhbaatar, founder of the Mars V project, and leading journalists Lodoisambuu Chuluunbileg and Munkhbayasgalan Luvsanbyambaa will also add new voices to Mongolia’s parliament. 

As Mongolian Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene Luvsanamsrai said in a post-election press release, “The recent election and the new parliament is a second wave of Mongolia’s democracy.” Now Mongolia is fully immersed in the quest to establish a new government, with Oyun-Erdene calling for a coalition government with members from DP, HUN Party, National Coalition, and Civil Will-Green Party. 

Mongolia’s 2024 parliamentary election created and increased opportunities for the younger generation to take charge of Mongolia’s future. But regarding the election process itself, several things deserve to be addressed.  

Mongolia’s parliamentary election was open to both domestic and international observers. According to the General Election Commission of Mongolia, 259 international organizations and 27 news agencies registered to observe and cover the election. Domestically, national broadcasting services and private newspaper outlets shared livestreams of voters and urgent press releases. One of Mongolia’s rising news channels, TengerTV, organized pre-election debates touching on important topics such as energy, education, foreign relations, and social development. 

Despite the large amount of observers and livestreaming platforms, social media showed another side of the election. Cash bribery and election corruption were caught on camera in several incidents. 

Just hours before the polls closed, on social media platforms Facebook and X, allegations of cash bribery and suspicious activities were released. Multiple press releases were put out by the Mongolian People’s Party and Democratic Party, accusing each other of cash bribes in various provinces.

In one video that went viral, a woman recorded an apparent supporter of MPP candidate and serving MP Undram Chinbat holding Undram’s election ID card, along with a paper containing a long list of voters’ names, followed by a note section. The woman who recorded the video questioned the reasons for a list with specific notes attached to each voter, asking whether political parties promised certain, specific things to win votes. Some saw the video as evidence of a pre-planned, systematic election corruption scheme. 

The Mongolian public hopes that these issues will be addressed. 

During a press release by National Coalition leader Nomtoibayar Nyamtaishir, he stated that the ruling MPP made several attempts to undermine his and his party member’s campaign. As one example, he accused the MPP of spreading a fake news story that there were 300 Chinese workers supporting National Coalition candidates’ campaigns. 

While Nomtoibayar was elected, there are concerns regarding his ambition in politics. As someone who previously been involved in a mining conglomerate business, there is a chance of a conflict of interest due to his family’s strong ties with the leading mining industry of Mongolia. 

With new voices and members from opposition parties, the hope is that conflicts of interest may be prevented with efficient checks and balances of the parliament system itself. 

Election campaign financing has been an important topic even before the election had started. One of the major concerns in this year’s election was the increase in election campaign spending. 

According to TengerTV, the MPP, spent the most at 2.4 trillion Mongolian tugrik, followed by the National Coalition (2 trillion tugrik), the HUN Party (1.7 trillion tugrik), and DP (1.4 trillion tugrik). Moreover, LemonPress highlighted that candidates in Ulaanbaatar (an average of 382,072 tugrik), Darkhan (34,155 tugrik), Orkhon (32,013 tugrik), and Bayankhongor provinces (32,013 tugrik) spent the most on their election campaigns. 

Overall, the report from OSCE election observers found that:

The 28 June parliamentary elections were well-administered, but competitiveness was negatively affected by the lack of a level playing field. The legal framework is adequate for conducting democratic elections but needs further alignment with international standards on fundamental rights and freedoms.  

One of the biggest wins for Mongolia’s democracy is that Mongolian citizens abroad, for the first time in history, were able to vote. In the 2024 parliamentary election, 13,095 Mongolians registered to vote from 34 different countries. 

Mongolia’s parliamentary election, which happens every four years, bestows opportunities for better governance, improving transparency, and shaping how Mongolia should engage with the rest of the world as a democratic nation. Mongolia’s continued efforts in upholding democratic principles, having a fair and transparent election, allowing foreign observers to election watch, and opening space for the younger generation to voice their concerns are crucial part of advancing Mongolia’s democracy.  

As the new parliament began its first session with 126 members, the country is hopeful for a better future.