Sunday, May 24, 2009

Voters head to the polls in Mongolia

Mongolia is a country sandwiched between Asiatic giants of the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation. A tight race for president is underway. President Enkhbayar Nambaryn, the the incumbent from the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party is fighting for his political survival, against Elbegdorj Tsahia from the rival Mongolian Democratic Party

[CIA Factbook Background]

The Mongols gained fame in the 13th century when under Chinggis KHAN they established a huge Eurasian empire through conquest. After his death the empire was divided into several powerful Mongol states, but these broke apart in the 14th century. The Mongols eventually retired to their original steppe homelands and in the late 17th century came under Chinese rule. Mongolia won its independence in 1921 with Soviet backing and a Communist regime was installed in 1924. The modern country of Mongolia, however, represents only part of the Mongols' historical homeland; more Mongols live in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China than in Mongolia. Following a peaceful democratic revolution, the ex-Communist Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) won elections in 1990 and 1992, but was defeated by the Democratic Union Coalition (DUC) in the 1996 parliamentary election. The MPRP won an overwhelming majority in the 2000 parliamentary election, but the party lost seats in the 2004 election and shared power with democratic coalition parties from 2004-2008. The MPRP regained a solid majority in the 2008 parliamentary elections but nevertheless formed a coalition government with the Democratic Party. The prime minister and most cabinet members are MPRP members.

Mongolia has large deposits of copper, uranium and other commodities. Naturally, the question of how to spread the benefits of foreign investment in their countries natural resources is at the top of both candidates respective messages to the voters.

According to article from AP, about 50 election observers from 11 international organizations and embassies such as the U.S., Sweden and Japan monitored the balloting.

In this Reuters video, voters express their sense of frustration from shanty towns on the outskirts of are is heading to the polls

Hopefully things will progress a lot smoother than they did last year when Elbegdorj's Democrats lost and he claimed fraud by election committees, which coincidentally are dominated by the ruling party. What followed was a "vodka-fueled riot that left five dead and 300 injured." -- AP

This is the 5th election is for the new democracy which experienced a relatively peaceful uprising that brought down the pro-Soviet Union government in 1990. Internationally the country has come to be seen as a success story for democracy in a region dominated by authoritarian governments, reports AP.