Depending on whom one believes, Mongolia’s former president Nambaryn Enkhbayar is either a champion of democracy targeted for judicial persecution by an increasingly authoritarian regime or he is a corrupt charlatan whose finely crafted portrayal of martyrdom hoodwinked Washington, the United Nations and the European Union. The evidence suggests the second view is nearer the truth and Mongolia’s Constitutional Court has upheld a General Election Commission ruling that because Enkhbayar, president from 2005 to 2009, is facing five corruption charges, he is not eligible to run in parliamentary elections on June 28. That ruling has stalled and perhaps ended Enkhbayar’s attempts at a political comeback after his defeat in the 2009 presidential election.
The parliamentary elections next week and presidential elections next year give every indication of being key stepping stones along Mongolia’s tumultuous transition which began when it emerged as an independent state from the collapsed Soviet Union in 1990. Since then Mongolia has struggled to create a functional democracy amid the contradictions thrown up by a rapidly changing culture. The discovery of huge mineral wealth brought hordes of mining company carpetbaggers thundering into Ulaan Bataar, seriously unsettling a traditional economy and social culture based on the semi-nomadic herding of sheep, goats and horses on the country’s vast steppeland.
Next week’s election will carry forward two significant developments on the transition road. The contest for seats in the 76-member parliament, the State Great Khural, will be fought under new rules mixing seats allocated by proportional representation and others directly elected.