Nationalist Candidate Battulga Wins Mongolian Election in RunoffMichael Kohn
Battulga maintains Democratic Party last toehold on power
Former judo star promised voters share of mineral resources
Battulga Khaltmaa of Mongolia’s Democratic Party was poised to win a runoff presidential election in Mongolia on Friday after promising to serve as a watchdog against super-majority rule in parliament by the Mongolian People’s Party.
Battulga, 54, had 50.8 percent of the vote as of 12:30 a.m. local time on Saturday compared to 40.6 percent of the vote for MPP candidate Enkhbold Miyegombo, with 92 percent of polling stations reporting. Ballots cast by expatriate Mongolians living in Europe are expected to arrive in the capital Ulaanbaatar Saturday morning, according to the General Election Commission.
If the results hold, Battulga’s win will keep the office of the president in the hands of the Democratic Party following eight years of rule by Elbegdorj Tsakhia, who was unable to run for a third term. His nationalist-tinged campaign struck a chord with young voters hoping for a greater slice of Mongolia’s natural resource wealth.
Battulga, a painter and former judo champ, pitched himself as the anti-oligarchy candidate and watchdog against abuse of power by the ruling MPP. He has promised to bring jobs and bridge the yawning wealth gap that has left thousands of families disenfranchised in undeveloped urban and rural areas.
“Enkhbold lacked loyal supporters, he just had party support because he towed the party line,’’ Mogi Badral Bontoi, head of market research firm Cover Mongolia, said by phone from Ulaanbaatar. While Battulga “is a one man show, his message is unique and consistent, he sometimes stands against his party.’’
Ghenghis Khan Statue
While competing as an anti-oligarchy candidate, the business tycoon Battulga remains one of the wealthiest men in Mongolia, dealing mainly in agriculture and tourism. He is well-known for building a 40-meter tall equestrian statue of Ghenghis Khan outside of Ulaanbaatar.
A former minister of agriculture and industry, Battulga has vowed to balance Mongolia’s exports with its neighbors. The country currently exports 89 percent of its products to China. He advocates building railroads to Russia and industrial plants to process Mongolian minerals.
Battulga is also planning to revoke a government order that prevents revenue from strategic deposits from flowing through local banks. The measure was the final step for Mongolia to qualify for an International Monetary Fund-led bailout package that totaled $5.5 billion.
Enkhbold’s party ousted the DP in a landslide last year and was considered the favorite, even after he was caught up in a scandal involving government jobs. Battulga’s surprisingly strong performance in the first round – capturing 38 percent of the vote, compared to Enkhbold’s 30.3 percent – sent the price of Mongolian bonds tumbling.
The election also featured a “blank ballot’’ social media movement, an attempt to force new elections by voting for no candidate, which amounted to 8.6 percent of the total votes. Voter turnout in the runoff was 60.4 percent of the electorate, according to the commission.