Polls in Mongolia will close in a few hours, in all likelihood reelecting President Ts. Elbegdorj of the Democratic Party (DP). His opponents, the former-wrestler-turned-MP B. Bat-Erdene of Hentii from the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) and former health minister N. Udval of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP), failed to make much of a showing during the campaign or the televised Q&A session, and as of a week ago, poll had them trailing Elbegdorj enough that no run-off would be necessary. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, a run off election between the top two contenders will take place July 10, although should that take place the smart money is still on Elbegdorj.
Udval’s image, as the candidate of the MPRP (Enkhbayar’s party), has largely been tethered to the imprisoned-former president, and she has apparently failed to make much of an impression beyond that, which is especially interesting considering that she is the first woman to run for the office. Bat-Erdene, although cultural totem for many Mongolians, similarly struggled to reach urban and younger voters. In wildly broad strokes, the DP has come to be seen as the favorite of the young (average age in Mongolia’s 27), the urban (near half of Mongolia), and the investing class. The MPP (before 2010 known as the MPRP, not to be confused with the current, post-2010 MPRP) speaks more to the older, more conservative, rural voters.
Elbegdorj is no amateur at political campaigning; in addition to having already won one presidential election, he was prime minister twice, and has been in politics as long as has been legal (he played a significant role in the initial democratic movement). He is seen as liberal, and the most internationally minded, although a large part of that may be due to Elbegdorj’s having the most clearly enunciated foreign policy. He seems to be the most friendly of the three candidates towards the foreign mining concerns that have made Mongolia one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Elbegdorj weathered public outcry after his government arrested his predecessor in office, N. Enkhbayar, for corruption charges, and flatly rejected the former president’s appeals for clemency on health grounds, but that seems to be less of an issue every day. His public image as a democratic crusader, together with his experience, Obama-esque campaigning (somewhat ironically, given his status as the International Republican Institute’s “Hero”), and the weakness of the other candidates seems set to carry Elbegdorj back into office.
Whatever takes place, as long as the vote is fair and violence is avoided, I think it can be termed a success in Central Asia.
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UPDATE: The election went smoothly (AJ), no violence was reported, and Independent Election Commissioner Sodnomtseren has announced that of 1,181,061 ballots cast, 592,199 were for Elbegdorj, 496,618 were for Bat-Erdene, and 77,296 were for Udval (h/t Mendee). So, by a small margin, Elbegdorj avoids a run-off, and will be the president again. This being the first election that Mongolians residing abroad were allowed to vote in, it is entirely possible that the diaspora vote was the deciding vote; it will be interesting to see the voting analyses in the days to come. Based on the Sant Maral poll many organizations referenced before the election, the results today mean Bat-Erdene actually did slightly better than expected, Elbegdorj and Udval slightly worse. Ardchilal mandtugai!