Country in east-Central Asia, bounded north by Russia and south by China.
Government Mongolia is a multiparty democracy with a dual executive of president and prime minister. Under its 1992 constitution it has a 76-member parliament, the People's Great Hural (assembly), elected for a four-year term. Formerly elected under a simple majority voting system, from 2012 deputies have been returned under proportional representation, with 48 chosen in 26 electoral districts and 28 from national party lists. A prime minister and cabinet are drawn from the party or coalition grouping able to command majority support in the parliament. The president, who is popularly elected for a four-year term, heads the armed forces and has powers to veto the parliament's decision. But the veto can be overturned by a two-thirds majority vote by parliament. Candidates for the presidency must be at least 45 years old and once elected must resign his or her party membership.
History Inhabited by nomads from northern Asia, the area was united under Genghis Khan in 1206 and by the end of the 13th century was part of the Mongol Empire that stretched across Asia. From 1689 it was part of China.
After the revolution of 1911–12 Mongolia became autonomous under the Lamaist religious ruler Jebsten Damba Khutukhtu. From 1915 it fell increasingly under Chinese influence and not until 1921, with the support of the USSR, were Mongolian nationalists able to cast off the Chinese yoke.
‘Sovietization’ In 1924 Mongolia adopted the Soviet system of government and, after proclaiming itself a people's republic, launched a programme of ‘defeudalization’, involving the destruction of Lamaism. In 1931, when two provinces revolted against the Communist Party, religious buildings were destroyed and mass executions carried out on the orders of the Soviet dictator Stalin. An armed uprising by antigovernment forces in 1932 was suppressed with Soviet assistance. Marshal Horloogiyn Choybalsan, a former independence fighter, was the effective ruler of the nation until his death in 1952. China recognized its independence in 1946, but relations deteriorated as Mongolia took the Soviet side in the Sino-Soviet dispute. In 1966 Mongolia signed a 20-year friendship, cooperation, and mutual-assistance pact with the USSR, and some 60,000 Soviet troops based in the country caused China to see it as a Russian colony.
Economic change Isolated from the outside world during the 1970s, under the leadership of Yumjaagiyn Tsedenbal (1916–1991) – the nation's dominant figure from 1958 – Mongolia underwent great economic change as urban industries developed and settled agriculture on the collective system spread, with new areas being brought under cultivation. Tsedenbal was deposed in 1984 by Jambyn Batmuntch.
Foreign contact and influence After the accession to power in the USSR of Mikhail Gorbachev, Mongolia was encouraged to broaden its outside contacts. Cultural exchanges with China increased, diplomatic relations were established with the USA, and between 1987 and 1990 the number of Soviet troops stationed in the country was reduced from 80,000 to 15,000. Influenced by events in Eastern Europe, an opposition grouping, the Mongolian Democratic Union, was illegally formed in December 1989 and spearheaded a campaign demanding greater democratization. The Communist Party (Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party: MPRP), which had ruled the country since 1921, became committed to political and economic reform and from 1990 the formation of other political parties was allowed.
Introduction of multiparty politics in 1991 In free multiparty elections in July 1990, the MPRP secured 83% of the seats in the parliament, and the main opposition body, the Democratic Party, led by Erdenijn Bat-Uul, only 5% of the seats. The new assembly elected Punsalmaagiyn Ochirbat of the MPRP as president and Dashiyn Byambasuren as prime minister in September 1990.
In March 1991 the reformist Budragchaa Dashyondon was elected head of the ruling MPRP. In the wake of the anticommunist repercussions of the failed August 1991 anti-Gorbachev coup in the USSR, President Ochirbat resigned from the MPRP. Twelve former members of the MPRP were subsequently charged with corruption during their terms in office.
Towards a free-market economy Political and economic reforms continued under the MPRP government. In June 1991, the word ‘republic’ was dropped from the country's name and in January 1992 a new constitution came into force. The parliamentary elections of June 1992 were won by the MPRP and a free-market economist, Puntsagiyn Jasray, was elected prime minister. In the country's first direct presidential election in June 1993, Punsalmaagiyn Ochirbat was re-elected.
The government embarked on an ambitious programme to achieve the transition from central planning to a market economy by 1994. In October 1991 a law was passed providing for the private ownership of land. Prices were freed, the currency was massively devalued, a new banking system and stock exchange were established, privatizations began, and the country joined the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank. But the transition was initially painful, with GDP falling by 10% in both 1991 and 1992 and even more in 1993, despite pledges of economic aid from Japan, loans from the IMF, and the signing of a Friendship and Cooperation Treaty with Russia. But by the mid-1990s the corner was turned, with GDP growing by 6% in1996, while inflation was greatly reduced, and privatization began to take hold.
MPRP loses power In the parliamentary elections of June 1996, the MPRP was defeated by the four-party, free-market Democratic Union (DU) coalition, led by Radnaasumbere Gonchigdorj, which won more than 50 of the 76 assembly seats. This ended 75 years of communist rule. Mendsayhany Enhsayhan became prime minister and in August 1996 Mongolia signed a defence cooperation agreement with the USA.
The new government followed a radical, free-market programme, abolishing all tariffs and trade taxes so that Mongolia became the only country in the world not to levy taxes on trade. However, this economic shock therapy programme, supervised by the IMF and World Bank, brought a rise in unemployment to over 15%, widening income differentials, food shortages, and increased crime. The government soon became unpopular and was faced with demonstrations.
Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, leader of the Mongolian National Democratic Party (MNDP), the largest party in the DU coalition, became prime minister in April 1998. In 1990 he had been one of the leaders of the peaceful demonstrations that brought an end to one party rule. In July 1998 he was ousted in a no-confidence vote, which followed a banking crisis. The president and parliament were unable to agree on a successor until December 1998, when Janlaviyn Narantsatsralt, formerly mayor of Ulan Bator and a member of the MNDP, became prime minister. He was replaced, in July 1999, by Rinchinnyamiyn Amarjargal, who continued with a programme of financial reform and privatization. But a harsh winter in 1999–2000, and the worst drought in 60 years in 2000, devastated the economy, killing around 3 million livestock (almost 10% of the national total).
MPRP regains power The now centre-left MPRP, led by Nambariyn Enkhbayar, won a landslide victory in the July 2000 parliamentary elections and regained power. The DU remained unpopular because of the rural crisis, increasing social divisions and corruption allegations.
Following this defeat, in December 2000 five opposition parties, including the Mongolian Social Democratic Party (MSDP) and the Mongolian National Democratic Party (MNDP) merged to form the Mongolian Democratic Party (MDP).
The MPRP government pressed on with economic and legal reforms and in May 2001, Natsagiyn Bagabandi of the MPRP was re-elected president, with 58% of the vote. Parliamentary elections in 2004 resulted in a ‘hung parliament’ in which no single party had a majority. But the MPRP was able to stay in power, ruling in a coalition with the MDP, with Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj of the MDP as prime minister from August 2004.
The presidential elections of May 2005 were won by Nambaryn Enkhbayar of the MPRP. In January 2006 the MPRP withdrew its support from Elbegdorj and Miyegombo Enkhbold of the MPRP, a former mayor of Ulan Bator, became the new prime minister, heading an MPRP government which had the support of some MDP defectors. This move led to popular protests. In October 2007 Enkhbold was replaced as MPRP chair by Sanj Bayar who also became prime minister a month later.
Elbegdorj becomes Mongolia's first MDP president The MPRP held on to power after parliamentary elections in June 2008, but the MDP disputed the results. This led to violent protests, with the MPRP's headquarters being set on fire and a state of emergency imposed. The May 2009 presidential elections brought success for the MDP, whose candidate, the former prime minister Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, narrowly defeated Enkhbayar. As president, he issued an amnesty to the 300 prisoners held after the 1 July 2008 ‘uprising’, announced a moratorium on the country's death penalty, and a drive against corruption related to mining concessions. Elbegdorj was re-elected president in July 2013, with 51% of the vote.
The MPRP controlled the government, with its leader, Sükhbaataryn Batbold, the foreign minister, replacing Bayar as prime minister in October 2009, for health reasons. In 2010 the MPRP renamed itself the Mongolian People's Party (MPP), although a small rump, led by former president Nambariyn Enkhbayar, continued as the MPRP. This split support for the MPP in the June 2012 parliamentary elections. No single party achieved a majority of seats, but the MDP finished as the largest single party, and in August 2012 its leader, Norovyn Altankhuyag, a veteran of the 1990 anti-communist protests, became prime minister, heading a coalition with the MPRP.
In August 2012, former president Enkhbayar was sentenced to four years' imprisonment for corruption. This led to a deterioration in relations between the MPRP and MDP. The two parties also disputed over how to manage Mongolia's natural resources and in December 2012 the MPRP withdrew from the coalition government.
Against the backdrop of sharp economic slowdown and allegations of government corruption, on 5 November 2014 Altankhuyag was voted from office in a parliamentary confidence vote. His deputy, Dendev Terbishdagva, briefly took over before, on 21 November 2014, the education minister Chimediin Saikhanbileg of the MDP became prime minister. The new prime minister's key task was to reassure and win back foreign investment which had fallen sharply since August 2013, when the mining conglomerate Rio Tinto halted planned expansion because of a dispute with the government.
Mongolia – A Country Study
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