Protests in Mongolia

by Nathan Hamm on 1/12/2006 · 11 comments

The MPRP withdrew from Mongolia’s ruling coalition, and protests have broken out in the capital.

…protesters converged on the capital’s central square and stormed the office of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) to voice their anger over its withdrawal from the ruling coalition.

The former Soviet-backed MPRP triggered the political crisis on Wednesday when its 10 ministers resigned from the 18-member coalition Cabinet, ending an alliance of nearly two years with the Democratic Party.

Prime Minister Tsakhia Elbegdorj, who belongs to the Democratic Party, was hanging on for his political life, with Parliament on Thursday debating his position and whether to ratify the resignations.

AFP‘s report goes on to say that the MPRP, which holds 38 of the 76 seats in parliament, is confident that it can gain the support of at least one member of a minority party and place one of its own in power as Prime Minister.

The Democratic Party accuses the MPRP of resigning only after its corruption was revealed and that they are trying to grab power to cover up “its dirty and dishonorable actions.”

The MPRP’s headquarters have been seized by a crowd of a couple thousand protesters from the Civil Will and For Drastic Reform movements.

Reuters has a bit more on the protests.

The demonstrators, some wearing traditional gowns, others driving trucks with blaring megaphones on their roofs, gathered in Ulan Bator’s central square and demanded Elbegdorj’s administration stay in power.

“I’m protesting to oppose this political mafia,” said Gerlee, 78, a former MPRP supporter who is now unaffiliated.

“This decision to dissolve the government does not help the people, it goes totally against us.”

For more on Mongolia, visit Mongolia Matters and …yuu bna?, where a link to more photos can be found.

UPDATE: Valuable background at Chris Miller’s blog.

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Jim Hoft January 12, 2006 at 6:46 pm

Thanks for the news, Nathan. I appreciate the links you have provided. I am a bit confused in that the corrupt party officials resigned and this upset the people? I am not sure I get that. It will be interesting to follow.

Nathan January 12, 2006 at 6:57 pm

I was a little confused as well at first. I was about to refer you here, but that doesn’t seem to clear it up exactly either.

What people appear to be upset about is that the resignation of the MPRP ministers seems to be the first step in an attempt to remove the current prime minister and replace him with one of their own members. After the election, neither party could form a government and had to form a grand coalition. I don’t know much about the corruption story, but people have been concerned for a while.

yan January 13, 2006 at 2:56 am

My impression was that the MPRP’s action is more about personal interests than anything political. And IMO that’s also what drove people into the streets: The feeling that politicians and parties seem to regard the state primary as a means to further their own interests, not the other way ’round.

I don’t even think that the protesters necessarily support the old government – the parties are actually not that different. Not long ago, one of the movements behind yesterday’s demonstrations said that things in Mongolia can’t get any better with the current system anyway. I thought it’s a protest against the party’s egoism rather than against its power grab.

Tom Terry January 13, 2006 at 4:16 am

To clear up some of the confusion: The MPRP made the move to outst Elbegdorj after a member of the democratic coalition defected and joined the MPRP last week. That bumped the MPRP from 37 seats to 38, just one shy of the constitutional majority needed to form a new government without a coalition. I.E., all the MPRP has to do is get one more defector, or build a “coalition” with one member of parliament to gain the legal advantage to form a new government on its own. Thus, today, members of opposition parties were swearing up and down that they would never join the MPRP’s new government.

Mongolia’s constitution requires the dissolution of the government if half or more of the PM’s cabinet resigns. Thus, when the MPRP members of the cabinet resigned, it effectively forced Elbegdorj out, who, frankly, was not able to be effective leading a 50/50 split in the cabinet anyway. The fact that the MPRP wants to retake the Prime Ministership is certainly no secret. Granted, Elbegdorj may be Prime Minister, but everyone pretty well understands who really runs the country: President Enkhbayar.

Certainly the MPRP is very smooth and smart, and they know exactly what they are doing. Elbegdorj’s chances of remaining in power are slim to none. The MPRP may have trouble getting one more member of parliament to side with them, but it may not matter – the democratic coalition is so fractured that they cannot put up effective resistance anyway.

As for corruption and the other issues, there may be a lot of triggers (mining rights, profits, pensioners issues, public transpoprtation, economy, etc) but the bottom line is this is a power struggle for the future of the nation. The MPRP has been a spoiler in the democratic government for 2 years – no secret – but it’s not like the dems have proven themselves effective and strong leaders anyway.

Nomad January 13, 2006 at 9:17 am

Here are some additional information, which I got from a Mongolian website.
1. The head of the MPRP is not the president of Mongolia, instead the former mayor if the UB city Mr. M. Enkhbold
2. The head of the Democrat Party is not the prime minister Elbegdorj, instead Mr. Gonchigdorj.
Also, the 10 ministries who resigned from their posts are all members of the MPRP,which gives a thought that the MPRP managed this resignation in order to get rid of Elbegdorj, the democrat one. The government has 18 ministries, therefore by the law of the 50% of the ministries resigned then the government should be disolved. That is the main trick here.
Hope this is helpful.

bayarmaa January 13, 2006 at 9:24 am

Read the newspaper in Englsih.

Mary Joyce January 14, 2006 at 3:13 pm

Dear Nathan,
Greetings! My name is Mary Joyce and I am the Editor in Chief of DemoBlog, a new blog chronicling democracy struggles around the world. I\’m covering the the Mongolia protests and have re-posted a couple of local blog posts, some links, and some photos. Registan seems to be a clearinghouse for protest information, so I just thought I\’d let you know, in case you\’d like to link to me.
Very Best,
PS: I\’ve been reading Registan in order to keep abreast of Central Asia developments and you guys are doing a really great job.
PPS: I almost met you at the GV conference in London, which I attended on behalf of DemoBlog, but you didn\’t come. Maybe next time…
Mary Joyce
Editor in Chief

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