Facebook Twitter

Mongolia’s ex-communists claim victory in elections

SHARE Mongolia’s ex-communists claim victory in elections

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia (AP) — After four years of fast-paced reforms, Mongolians voted overwhelmingly in parliamentary elections for ex-communists who promised to slow the nation's race toward capitalism, unofficial results showed Monday.

The apparent triumph Sunday of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, which ruled the country from the 1920s until 1996, reflected widespread dissatisfaction with infighting and corruption that have blemished the reformists' term in office.

The results — reported by the MPRP and accepted by the nation's media and other political parties — gave the leftists a dominating 72 seats in Mongolia's 76-member unicameral Parliament, ensuring passage of any measure the party can agree on.

It was unclear when official vote tallies would be available. Election officials had said Monday afternoon, but other authorities said results would probably not be released until Tuesday.

The vote put MPRP leader N. Enkhbayar, 42, a fluent English-speaker who has studied in both Moscow and Britain, in line to take the premiership. The party will decide over the next few weeks whom to nominate.

Enkhbayar assured critics in a victory speech that his party did not favor bringing Mongolia back to communism. He compared the MPRP to the French Socialists or the Labor Party in Britain.

"The MPRP has been learning a lot the last four years," he told hundreds of cheering supporters in an auditorium at party headquarters.

The vote was devastating to the cluster of parties that ran united as the Democratic Union in 1996, toppling the MPRP after 75 years of communist rule and grabbing a comfortable 50-seat majority in Parliament.

The parties ran independently in Sunday's election, and faced each other in some districts, splitting the anti-MPRP vote.

The top party in the former coalition, the Mongolian National Democratic Party, won only one seat in Parliament, and Prime Minister R. Amarjargal — also an MNDP member — lost his local ele0ction, as did all the members of his Cabinet.

In a concession speech, Amarjargal defended his government, saying the reformers had made necessary structural changes in the economy, made gains in education and bolstered foreign reserves.

"The government gave the people of Mongolia the opportunity to have their own property," he said. "The private sector has become the main force of the Mongolian economy."

Though the election was marked by squabbling among the parties and allegations of foul-play, a major poll monitoring group — the U.S.-based International Republican Institute — declared the vote fair. The group also said voter turnout was more than 75 percent.

A driving force in the election was the difficulty Mongolia faces as it tries to remake itself from a Soviet satellite state into a modern, capitalist democracy, a process begun with a peaceful revolution in 1990.

While the economy is growing strongly, the transition has thrown many Mongolians into poverty and unemployment. More than a third of the population of 2.4 million live under the poverty line, and some towns suffer from unemployment rates of more than 50 percent.

The process has many critics.

"Privatization itself is a good thing, and Mongolia needs privatization," said Gurmid, 75, who has been an MPRP member for 53 years. "But privatization in Mongolia has gone too fast."

More hardship could be ahead. A devastating drought earlier this year killed 2.4 million herd animals, wiping out the livelihood of thousands of nomad families and threatening to create food shortages and disease in the coming months.

The political world has also been in turmoil. Three members of the reformist coalition have been jailed in a corruption scandal, the murder of a popular Cabinet minister has gone unsolved, and four prime ministers have served in as many years.