PARTY SPLITS, MERGERS BODE WELL FOR MONGOLIA’S DEMOCRACY

The renaming and subsequent split of the governing Mongolian People’s Party, the merger of the Civil Will Party with the Green Party, and current discussions about changes in electoral laws suggest a maturing of the party system in Mongolia, which is Asia’s only post-socialist democracy, and also one of the few on the continent.
In late Fall 2010, the former socialist ruling party, the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP), continued its “transmogrification” process by dropping “Revolutionary” from its name, to become just MPP. Prime Minister S. Batbold was among the most prominent supporters of this decision. Some party members were opposed and on January 28, 2011, they organized themselves into a reborn MPRP headed by former President N.Enkhbayar. A reconstituted MPRP could weaken the MPP significantly as it might take over some of its strong organization in the countryside and veer towards populism. But it may also ideologically refocus both the MPP and MPRP.
On January 31, 2011, two small opposition parties announced their merger into the Civil Will-Green Party. Both parties emphasized their proximity to voters without patronage structures. They are represented in Parliament by Dr. S.Oyun, a former Foreign Minister and sister of the slain democracy leader Zorig, and Dr. Enkhbat, an early Internet entrepreneur. The merger might inspire a sharpening of the party’s political profile by focusing on anti-corruption measures and giving a voice to ordinary Mongolians.
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Discussions of changes to the electoral system are likely to benefit smaller parties. The impetus behind these changes is the unwieldy multi-member plurality system (or block voting) adopted for the 2008 parliamentary election. Current proposals focus on a mix of direct and proportional representation. While some independent MPs, like Drs. Oyun and Enkhbat, have fared well in direct elections, less prominent members of their parties will certainly benefit from the introduction of some elements of proportional representation for the 2012 parliamentary election.
Depending on decisions about the electoral system this spring, the current convulsions could lead to more ideologically defined parties that will contribute to a vibrant public discourse about some of the difficult policy choices that Mongolia faces. But changes can also bolster populist tendencies and keep the country’s political class mired in corrupt structures of patronage.
Source: Asia Pacific Memo
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