Is Mongolia’s current political instability systemic or a governance issue?

By B.Shurentana Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/4 16:58:40

Mongolia has again been caught up in political instability a year after a new government took over from the one ruling since 2016. According to the Xinhua News Agency, Mongolian Prime Minister Ukhnaa Khurelsukh on Friday survived a no-confidence vote initiated by 27 lawmakers of the ruling Mongolian People's Party (MPP) on November 19 over a financial scandal involving some members of parliament and government. These high-ranking officials are said to have obtained loans with low interest rates from a fund that serves small and medium-size enterprises.

Such internal battles in Mongolian politics are not new but are symptomatic of societal illness for almost 30 years since its democratic transition. Once again, there is widespread discussion on the root cause of this stubborn illness.

Generally, there are two different opinions: one says that Mongolia should carry out systematic constitutional reform. This group is again split into two - one party supports the traditional parliamentary system. The other advocates a presidential form of government. The second opinion says that Mongolia needs a "cosmetic change" on the institutional level rather than a systematic one, a change that clarifies both rights and responsibilities and strengthens supervision.

Yet, no precise diagnosis is given either by internal or outside experts on whether the trouble Mongolia has sunk into is a systematic one or has been precipitated by governance problems, hence, the power struggle drama continues in Mongolian politics.

The problem is characterized by the tension between the "top three," - the parliament, the prime minister and the president, manifesting itself as a power struggle and conflict of interests. Mongolia is characterized as a semi-presidential and semi-parliamentary state, but in comparison, the parliament is more powerful than the president. So, it is also called a parliamentary state with president. The parliament represents the highest authority of the state.

Still, Mongolian polity is different from a classic parliamentary democracy since the president enjoys certain overriding powers such that his decisions can have an impact on any institution at the highest level of the polity. For example, the right to veto the laws and resolutions passed by the parliament, set guidelines for the government and issue decrees, to select the candidate for the prime minister by negotiating with the majority in the parliament etc.

The president also has an equal right with the parliament to nominate three members of the Constitutional Court (nine members). Most importantly, the president has the right to appoint the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General of the Supreme Procuratorate, which indeed violates the principle of judicial independence.

In addition, the prime minister is a member of parliament and so are members of the government. Integration of legislative and executive power makes things even worse. Corruption, interest-groups and factional divisions in politics are becoming more serious. Currently, the MPP in the parliament is divided into two factions. One is with the current Parliament Speaker Miyeegombyn Enkhbold and the other supports the current prime minister. Now, the parliament is deadlocked because 32 members requested the removal of the speaker.

A series of recent political scandals and incidents have further exacerbated public distrust and dissatisfaction with the two major political parties. Mongolia is not only caught in economic and political mire, but also faces a serious mistrust in authorities and the major political parties. Disappointment among the people is high. Political instability has been a chronic disease of Mongolia, which inevitably has had a negative impact on the economy. In the last 27 years, Mongolia has seen 14 governments, which means that the average life expectancy of each government is less than two years.

The next development in the political situation remains to be seen. Mongolia is an important neighbor of China to the north and an essential party to China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor's construction. Mongolian economy has just shown signs of recovery. Political stability in Mongolia is not only beneficial to the country and its people but also conductive to the promotion of regional stability and sub-regional cooperation.

The author is a lecturer at the Center for Mongolian Studies, Inner Mongolia University.


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