NB: Archived page 22 May, 2011

As should be clear from reading this page,this is no longer updated. I hope (vaguely, and not very realistically) to update it at some future time, but for the foreseeable future, other projects and research command too much of my time to make updating this page a realistic option. I leave it here for historical interest and reference.

Election quotas 1 February, 2008

Over a year has passed since this section has been updated. But I've been receiving updates from an old friend of mine in Mongolia on an issue that I think deserves more attention than it has been getting.

On 26 December, 2007, the Ih Hural voted to overturn part of the 2005 election law that "required that political parties ensure that at least 30 per cent of their candidates in national elections are women" (the quote is from T. Undarya at MONFEMNET, who deserves the credit for keeping me up to date).

NB: This was a quota for candidates in the election- not for members of parliament itself. The law itself was passed in 2005. I haven't seen the 26 December vote, or fuller details about it, so I'm not sure what reason they gave for overturning the quota, although apparently several parts of the 2005 law were overturned, not just this one. The law that overturned the provisions of the 2005 election law that included the quota was institute by members of the MPRP (Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party) and MDP (Mongolian Democratic Party), the two main political parties in Mongolia. Other parties have either supported the quota (such as the Civic Will Party) or at least not opposed it.

It is worth pointing out here, for reasons that I don't really have time to go into right now, but basically boil down to the patriarchal nature of Mongolian society and politics, that the quota is one of the few ways for women to break through the glass ceiling in Mongolian politics. It is also worth pointing out that something like 65-70% of college students are women, and in my own (admittedly anecdotal) experience, the majority of people working in NGOs, international organizations, etc. are women. So it isn't merely the case that there aren't qualified women - the political and social system works against them having the chance to compete on an equal basis for the highest posts in government and elsewhere.

On 8 January of this year, the President vetoed the law. According to another e-mail from Undarya: "The President agreed that the December 26 law is a set-back on Mongolia's policies, including Mongolia's MDGs [Millenium Development Goals] approved in 2005 by the current parliament." This seems like good news, but one should never underestimate the lure of power and greed.

On 9 January, Undarya had to send out another e-mail update, which read, in part: "It's amazing how efficient our Parliament can be when it wants to be. The President's veto was passed only yesterday but today the Parliamentary Standing Committee on State Structure already discussed and resolved to reject the President's veto on the law repealing the 30 per cent quota for women.
No prior discussion of any sorts!"

Things got more "interesting," however. The Ih Hural at first failed to actually overturn the veto. (This was on 10 January.) However, the very next day, there was another vote. The basic logic was that in the previous vote (that did not overturn the veto), votes were recorded by two people who were not actually there. So 49 MPs voted on 11 January, and only 6 voted against overturning the veto. Those six were:
1. Mr. R. Amarjargal (Mongolian Democratic Party)
2. Ms. D. Arvin (Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party)
3. Mr. J. Bathuyag (New National Party)
4. Mr. M. Enkhsaihan (New National Party)
5. Mr. M. Zorigt (Civil Courage Party)
6. Ms. S. Oyun (Civil Courage Party)

Things were relativel quiet - at least in the Ih Hural - for a few days. MONFEMNET and others have been holding meetings, and holding live TV discussions, which have apparently generated some interest. However, such actions have also appeared to upset the supporters of the status quo, since there are now reports of threats againts some of the activists, and even the TV journalist who aired the programs. If it wasn't such a serious issue, it would be almost amusing - a bunch of politicians afraid to let women run against them. After all - please keep in mind this quota is for candidates for election, not for the actual seats in the Parliament. It is quite possible that women would run and not be elected. But it seems the men in Parliament are afraid of even that.

Finally, allow me to quote almost in full an e-mail from Undarya from today:

On Thursday, January 31, Citizen J. Zanaa filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court on behalf of MONFEMNET and its partners on the grounds that the parliament violated the Law on Parliamentary Procedures and the Constitution in taking a re-vote on the Presidential veto on the repeal of the 30 per cent minimum quota for women candidates.
According to the law, only a citizen may file a complaint with the Constitutional Court. Ms. J. Zanaa kindly volunteered to do this challenging task. She is the Director of the Center for Citizens' Alliance (former CEDAW Watch Center) and Coordinator of MONFEMNET's Standing Committee on Politics, Civil Society and Governance.
According to the law, the Constitutional Court is to inform Citizen J. Zanaa within 14 days whether or not they will discuss the complaint. We hope the Constitutional Court will prove to be more ethical and professional than the national parliament.

For more information, you can check out MONFEMNET's website, but I'm afraid the news on the quota is only in Mongolian at this point. I'm actually heading to Mongolia in about 36 hours, so I'm not sure if I'll have the time or a chance to update this part of the website, but I'll see what I can do. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed.

250,000,000 tögrög. Update 2 December, 2006

I haven't been updating this section lately, but the latest decision of the Ih Hural (actually, more like the MAHN section of it) has me amazed and dumb-founded. They have included in the 2007 budget, approved on December 1, a provision that gives each electoral district 250,000,000 tögrög - that's about $215,000 at today's exchange rate. A couple things need to be pointed out here. First - this is being doled out by electoral district, not by any sort of administrative district. Second - as far as I can tell, there are absolutely no checks or balances on how this money is to be used. All the reporting I've seen indicates it is supposed to be for the improvement of the district, but there appear to be no mechanisms to enforce this. Also judging from comments I've seen, it isn't even required that MPs submit proposals or anything. The UB Post article quotes someone from the "Just Society Civil Movement" calling this "formalized corruption." It is sure hard to see how it can be justified as anything else. After all, if the purpose were to actually help the people of Mongolia, why isn't this being apportioned by administrative districts? Or why (apparently) isn't any sort of transparency or even applications for money being required?

You can read more about this on MonInfo and The UB Post. Note: these links will NOT open in a new window - so right click and choose "Open link in new window" (or tab) if you don't want to leave this site.

As a final note, the UB Post mentions what sounds like a similar previous handout of 100,000,000 tögrög (about $86,000), and notes only one MP (S. Oyun) provided an explanation of how they intended to use the money. I know nothing more about this, but will try to find out what I can, for those interested.

New government and background. Update 9 February, 2006

Actually, the new government (ministers) was named over a week ago. I just haven't had time and energy to put it up before now. But perhaps that's a good thing, in a way. A friend at the Center for Citizens' Alliance, a Mongolian NGO, has kindly provided permission for me to make available a briefing paper of theirs. The analysis, entitled "What lies behind and follows after the forced resignation of Ts. Elgbegdorj's government" can be accessed either by clicking on "analysis" above, or on the link to the left.

Here, finally, is the list of the new government, in no particular order. Where I'm sure of the current party affiliation, I've given it. There are a few that I'm leaving putting in as tentative or leaving blank until I've checked a few things. For example, the Deputy Prime Minister, Enhsaihan, is from the Democratic Party, although I've read claims that the party plans to dissociate itself from members who take up cabinet positions. (Whether or not they will is another story entirely.) Also, there is one post (Minister in charge of Emergencies) that I have the name of the person who was nominated, but not confirmed for. I'm not sure if someone else has filled the position.

Please note that there are no women as ministers in the current government.

Prime Minister
M. Enhbold (MAHN)
Deputy Prime Minister
M. Enhsaihan (is/was Democratic Party)
Minister of Justice and Domestic Affairs
D. Odbayar (MAHN)
Minister of Foreign Affairs
N. Enhbold (MAHN)
Minister of Industry and Trade
B. Jargalsaihan (Republican Party)
Minister of the Environment
I. Erdenebaatar (Motherland Party?)
Minister of Food and Agriculture
D. Terbishdagva (MAHN)
Minister of Health
L. Gundalai (People's Party)
Minister of Fuel and Energy
B. Erdenebat (Motherland Party)
Minister of Emergencies
N. Chuluunbaatar (Motherland Party; was nominated, but not confirmed)
Chairman of the government secretariat
S. Batbold (MAHN)
Minister of Finance
N. Bayartsaihan (MAHN)
Minister of Roads, Transport and Tourism
Ts. Tsengel (MAHN)
Minister of Education, Culture and Science
Ö. Enhtüvshin (MAHN)
Minister of Social Welfare and Labor
L. Odonchimeg (MAHN)
Minister of Construction and City Construction
J. Narantsatsralt (is/was Democratic Party)
Minister of Defense
M. Sonompil (is/was Democratic Party)
Minister in charge of Professional Inspection
U. Hürelsüh (MAHN)
Government Resignation. Update 16 January, 2006

As of now, it seems that the new government will be announced later in the week. The Democratic Party and the Civic Will Party are apparently refusing to take part in the new government. Basically, expect it to be a MAHN government with a couple of positions thrown to some of the smaller groups or perhaps a democratic party defector to provide "cover" for MAHN to claim it isn't just them running the country. I do think there is one thing worth point out in all of this: While (at the very least) the move by MAHN goes against the spirit of democracy, if not the letter of the law, we shouldn't see this as a return to communism or anything, as I've seen one or two of the more hysterical commentators suggest. This is about power, but it is more about money and corruption. The sentiment in Mongolia, from what I've been reading (and talking to people), is that the timing of the move was intended to keep MAHN corruption from coming to light. It's a power grab, but it's one driven by selfishness and self-interest, not any sort of totalitarian or communist ideology. And in the end, this may end up doing MAHN more harm than good, as many people in Mongolia are quite aware of this. Don't get me wrong - I think there are grave implications to the fact that MAHN did this, and felt no apparent compunction in doing so. And I doubt any token non-MAHN figures appointed to the new government will be given an real say or influence. They'll be expected to toe the line.

Government Resignation. Update 13 January, 2006

A quick update, quick mainly because I don't have all the background yet, but this is important: The Mongolian Parliament (Ih Hural) has just voted 39 to 37 to dissolve the government headed by Elbegdorj, a member of the Democratic Party. Power was shared by the Democratic Party and MAHN, but a few days ago, the MAHN ministers all resigned. This precipitated the crisis, which will lead to the formation of a new government next week, according to recent reports. The new government will be all MAHN. So, in effect, MAHN has just forced out the coalition government in an effort to take full control of the government. This all may be technically legal, but doesn't seem very democratic in spirit, at least from where I'm viewing things.

In related news: There have been protests in Sühbaatar Square involving thousands of people over the MAHN actions, and the MAHN headquarters (just off the Square) was stormed.

Presidential election. Update 29 May, 2005

The Presidential election was held this past weekend. No real surprise (see below) the MAHN candidate, N. Enhbayar, won. He's also the now-former Speaker of the Ih Hural, the former Prime Minister, and in the early 1990s was the Culture Minister. I'm sure he's held other posts that I can't think of right now. This probably won't mean a whole lot in terms of overall direction of the country, for two reasons. First, the outgoing president was also elected from MAHN. (Technically, one suspends one's party membership on becoming president, since the figure is supposed to be a uniter, head of the whole country.) Second, the President doesn't have as much power as the Prime Minister. He has some veto power, and a few other odds and ends, but he seems to spend most of his time either meeting with dignitaries or going to cultural events.

People like to point out Enhbayar's fondness for Tony Blair and Britiain's New Labour. Enhbayar is also often pointed out as representing the more liberal MAHN faction, against Bagabandi's (the outgoing president) faction. But I have to admit, given the rightward turn the government took after Enhbayar become PM in 2000, I've never quite believed this. So it will be interesting to see what, if anything, actually develops. And against the relativel weakness of the President's post, I would point out that the President can indeed introduce legislation, and Enhbayar himself seems to exercise fairly strong control over MAHN, so he probably has more influence than just his post would indicate.

Addendum: Actually, things might be a bit more interesting than I first wrote, as I realized when I was e-mailing with a friend about the election. (That'll teach me to update with only one or two mugs of coffee in me...) Among other things, Enhbayar is also the head of MAHN. But since, as President, he has to suspend party membership, he can't continue to lead MAHN. So, technically at least, they need a new leader. I say "technically" because I wonder how much actual power will shift. (Not a whole lot, I'd guess.) There will also have to be a new Speaker of the Ih Hural (although I'm not sure that's really all that vital) and a by-election to fill Enhbayar's now vacated spot as Ih Hural member. Given the close balance in the Ih Hural these days, that could actually turn out to be relatively interesting, if a non-MAHN person wins the seat.

Protests and elections. Update 5 April, 2005

There has been in the past few weeks another protest movement in Mongolia. This one, calling itself "Just Society-Civic Movement" claims to be inspired by the situation in Kyrgyzstan, where the president recently resigned after opposition protests. They are calling for the resignation of the Ih Hural, and accusing the Speaker of the Parliament of mis-using / appropriating almost US$ 3 million during the parliamentary elections last year, as well as controlling the media. The head of the protest movement - which has staged several demonstrations - is someone called J.Batzandan, whom I've not heard of before.

Having been in Mongolia during the elections last year - and working as an election observer - I wouldn't be surprised if some of these allegations are true. The media was certainly biased in favor of the ruling MAHN. However, Mongolia is still considerably more democratic and open that most of the Central Asian republics, and personally I think the demands of the protesters are unreasonable. There is much work to be done in terms of corruption, etc., in Mongolia, but the best way is through law, reform, openness, etc., not more protests. I've been bad at keeping up with the news from Mongolia recently, but I'll have to go read more.

In other recent news, the Presidential elections are coming up. They are scheduled for the end of May. So far, three candidates have been declared. For MAHN, there is N. Enhbayar, the current Speaker of the Ih Hural and former Prime Minister. Jargalsaihan is running for the Republican Party, and Enhsaihan is running for the Democrats. Others may well throw their hats in the ring.

Expect Enhbayar to win.

Democratic coalition, or lack of it. Update 27 Jan., 2005

It now seems - from what I can figure out - that the Democratic coalition, one of the two major forces in the Ih Hural has collapsed. Splintered. Sundered. Take your pick of words. This has lead to what is technically known as a "mess." The problem seems to be that the laws governing the various aspects of running the government are far from clear on what happens next. One needs to have a party or coalition with at least 8 seats in the Ih Hural to form a "group," but it doesn't seem to be clear what happens when a coalition splits, as happened here. MAHN seems to want to say, in essence, "tough luck" - the coalition that was elected split, and so you guys can't form any groups. Various people from the parties within the coalition argue that as long as their party or part of the coalition has eight members, they can still form a group in the parliament. Other people are trying to reform parties that had been part of the coalition, with yet others saying, no, that can't be done.

I've also seen reports that some of the MPs from the Democratic Coalition - including, it is said, S. Oyun, the now ex-deputy speaker - want to join more or less on their own in a coalition with MAHN. I'm not quite sure how that would work. (I've been bad about keeping up with the Mongolian-language newspapers, and the English-language ones aren't always the clearest on politics.) Whatever else happens, you can pretty much expect resignations (forced or otherwise) from the cabinet, if they haven't started already. When push comes to shove, Mongolian politics is as much about the individual politicians as it is actually running the country. It's probably even more pronounced in Mongolia than it is in, say, the US. So as power and balance shifts, expect to see various individuals trying to grab more influence for themselves. And it will be a wonder if any laws actually get passed, or substantive issues discussed.

I guess once this all settles out - if it does - I'll have to redo the section on political parties, since it is no longer completely accurate.

Law on Chinggis Khaan

There had been a discussion about a year ago about introducing a law on the use of Chinggis Khaan's name in various capacities. This isn't much of a surprise, as the idea has been bandied about for a while. A week or so ago, I heard that it was being discussed in the Ih Hural. If it had passed, it would apparently have made the name "Chinggis Khaan" state property, and required a fee to be paid to the government for the use of the name. The Ih Hural webpage didn't have a copy of the draft law, so I asked a contact if they could obtain a copy for me. They said the law has been withdrawn from discussion, apparently because it was not very well thought out. There are no plans to reintroduce it, either, according to my contact.

Local elections

Local level elections at the provincial level and down (aimag, sum, etc) for local legislatures were held in mid-October, 2004. It still isn't completely clear what happened, as apparently some areas in in dispute. But unsurprisingly, perhaps, MAHN won a majority of seats. The Mongol Messenger reports that MAHN won about 65% of the seats overall (440 out of 690), with the Motherland-Democratic Coalition winning most of the rest, with one Republic Party and 10 independents. A friend gave the figure as closer to 90%, but for a much smaller number of seats, only 250. So it is unclear that she was referring to. Once again, I've been unable to track down information on a Mongolian-language site.

I should point out that the local-level governments and legislatures actually have relatively little power. The Mongolian political system remains highly centralized, and a large portion of the local budgets are still provided by the national government. So while the results indicate more support for MAHN, this shouldn't really be taken as indicative of much in any large sense.

National politics

The government - finally - appointed the new cabinet, a 50/50 split between the Democrats and MAHN (the old ruling party from the socialist era) at the end of September. The elections had been held in late June, and they spent three months arguing over the results and jockeying for power and influence. Below is the list as reported by the Mongol Messenger on-line. I haven't confirmed it in other sources yet, and unfortunately the Mongol Messenger isn't always accurate. But this should be fairly accurate. The translations of the titles of the posts are theirs. I'm looking for them in the original Mongolian.

The Prime Minister, Speaker of the Ih Hural and Deputy Speaker were all announced sometime ago. I've included them here for the sake of completeness.

The President is still N. Bagabandi, MAHN. He was elected in 1997 and re-elected in 2001, so he can not run for re-election in 2005.

Prime Minister
Ts. Elbegdorj, Coalition
Deputy Prime Minister
Ch. Ulaan, MAHN (also a Member of Parliament)
Minister of Justice and Domestic Affairs
Ts. Nyamdorj, MAHN (held the same post in the 2000-2004 government)
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ts. Munkh-Orgil, MAHN (also a MP)
Minister of Trade and Industry
S. Batbold, MAHN (also a MP)
Minister of the Environment
U. Barsbold, MAHN
Minister of Food and Agriculture
B. Terbishdagva, MAHN (also a MP)
Minister of Health
T. Gandi, MAHN (also a MP)
Minister of Coal and Energy
T. Ochirhuu, MAHN (also a MP)
Minister Minister without portfolio in charge of Disaster Protection
U. Hurelsuh, MAHN

Chairman of the government secretariat
S. Bayartsogt, Motherland-Democracy Coalition (also a MP)
Minister of Finance
N. Altanhuyag, Coalition
Minister of Roads, Transport and Tourism
G. Bathuu, Coalition (also a MP)
Minister of Education, Culture and Science
P. Tsagaan, Coalition (also a MP)
Minister of Social Welfare and Labor
Ts. Bayarsaihan, Coalition (also a MP)
Minister of Construction and City Construction
N. Batbayar, Coalition (also a MP)
Minister of Defense
B. Erdenebat, Coalition (also a MP)
Minister without portfolio in charge of Professional Inspection
I. Erdenebaatar, Coalition

Speaker of the Ih Hural (Parliament)
N. Enhbayarj, MAHN (Resigned - elected President)
Deputy Speaker of the Ih Hural
S. Oyun, Coalition (Resigned)

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