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Challenges of Electoral Reform and Engineering in Mongolia

Sat, September 2, 8:00am to 5:30pm, Westin St. Francis, California West


Mongolia’s unbroken record of a quarter-century of democracy was confirmed in its 2016 parliamentary elections. It produced an overwhelming victory for the former communist party MPP and resulted in the fourth government turnover since its break from Communism. International observers applauded the efficient administration of the elections. Electronic voting made it possible to publicly announce the result on the election night, virtually eliminated fraud in vote counting and bolstered the credibility of the process. But the 2016 election was not without its problems. This paper sheds historical light on these issues and discusses their consequences for democratic rule in Mongolia. The last minute change from a mixed electoral system with plurality voting and proportional representation to a pure majoritarian system came dangerously close to violating democratic norms. The politically motivated change produced a landslide victory for the opposition. Electoral rules in Mongolia are notoriously fluid and three different systems have been in use interchangeably in the seven parliamentary contests since 1990. Other procedural changes barred Mongolians living abroad from voting, kept the General Electoral Commission busy writing new manuals, and shortened the campaign period. Public demonstrations were also prohibited, and boundaries between key constituencies in the capital were drawn arbitrarily. Moreover, close to the elections, the government decided to purchase back bonds in a previously state-owned mining company that was given free-of-charge to citizens just before the 2012 elections.