An Analysis of Election Fairness

The last parliamentary election in 2012 introduced a proportional system of allocating 28 of 76 seats in parliament. These seats were filled based on the proportion of votes each party received nationally using a ranked list of candidates selected by each party. The threshold for selecting from a list was a party receiving at least 5 percent of the vote. The remaining 48 seats where allocated through popular elections in 26 districts. The primary justification for introducing the hybrid proportional-popular election system was to make elections fairer by reducing the representative imbalance between Ulaanbaatar and rural districts. Ulaanbaatar districts were under-represented and rural districts were over-represented in the allocation of seats in previous parliaments. Moreover, the Democratic Party (DP) was seen as being more popular in Ulaanbaatar districts and therefore at a disadvantage to the Mongolian People's Party (MPP) which was seen as more popular in rural districts. There was some truth in these perceptions, but did the hybrid system increase fairness in the elections?

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The Wealth of Parliament Redux: What's It Worth?

Government officials holding high-ranking elected and appointed positions have been required since 2007 to annually disclose their level of wealth and financial holdings to the Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC), Mongolia's agency charged with investigating corruption within the government. This data is publicly available on the IAAC website,1 and it can be used to answer some interesting (and appalling?) questions such as: How much is Parliament worth?

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Opposition Poses a Challenge to the Special Session

The special session of parliament started off last week with a bang--literally. The environmentalist group "Gal Undesten" (Fire Nation) showed up outside the parliament building on the first day of the session armed to the teeth with guns, hand grenades, and military grade explosives to protest the modification and repeal of environmental and investment laws on the agenda.1 Several arrests were made, and a national conversation began about the political fringe in the country. But, it also ended any speculation about whether PM Altankhuyag's government would have an easy time passing legislation with the expressed aim of demonstrating, as Foreign Minister Bold said at the World Economic Forum the weekend before, that "Mongolia is open for business."2 Instead, it showed that politically things are far from under control at a time when consensus and decisive action are sorely needed.

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Baabar: 'The Absurd History of Legislators'

This week popular historian and former politician B. Batbayar (a.k.a. Baabar) published a rather scathing editorial entitled "The Absurd History of Legislators" directed at "resource nationalists" and the self-destructive attempts by parliament to appease them with legislation aimed at foreign investors. It struck me as a very compelling counter-balance to the usual inclination of international observers to view public opinion in Mongolia as being fantastically homogeneous and fully aligned against foreign investment. Mr. Baabar's opinion is only one, but it is an opinion read by many. He has more than 34,000 followers on Twitter, and the editorial had more than 84,000 views as of the writing of this post! It is worth a read. Here are a few choice passages I have translated from the original (see the footnotes and here) to give a flavor of his argument.

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The Bombshell that Fizzled

A week has passed since the revelations about Deputy Speaker S. Bayartsogt's offshore company and Swiss bank account were first reported by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). As mentioned in previous posts on this blog here and here, Mr. Bayartsogt neglected to claim the company and account on his official disclosure forms to the Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC) as required of all elected representatives and high-ranking officials in Mongolia. At this point he has only admitted to having violated those local regulations and codes of conduct. The more scandalous implication of the report is that it provides strong circumstantial evidence of a political leader abusing his official position for personal gain, and his public image as a proponent of the Oyu Tolgoi (OT) project also adds another layer of intrigue for conspiracy minded critics of the mine project. Given the popular perception that corruption is endemic among politicians and the accusations of wrongdoing routinely tossed around by critics of the OT project, this story had all the makings of a first rate political scandal. Yet, it appears to have fizzled for three reasons.

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