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Challenges in Mongolia’s Upcoming Election 

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Challenges in Mongolia’s Upcoming Election 

June 2024 will see the first elections since constitutional changes reconfigured Mongolia’s legislature and electoral system.

Challenges in Mongolia’s Upcoming Election 
Credit: Depositphotos

Mongolia’s parliamentary election in June 2024 will be a pivotal moment for the country’s democracy. The newly enlarged legislative branch hopes to strengthen the country’s multi-party governance, but there is still a certain level of instability in the electoral system and low voter representation. 

The 2024 elections will be the first since the recent constitutional amendment in May 2023, which increased the number of parliamentary seats from 76 to 126, with 48 of those chosen by proportional representation. 

Preparations are underway to implement those changes. In December, Mongolia’s electoral districts were shuffled and merged, reducing the number of districts from 29 to 13. As a result, the next parliament will be able to focus on regional and national development rather than local election district-based interests. Another hope is that the expanded 126-seat legislature may create more opportunities for parties to include female candidates as part of the institutionalization in political parties. 

However, there are noteworthy nuances to this change that pose a couple of challenges for Mongolia’s multi-party election system. 

For example, under existing law, election campaigns can only occur within a designated 14-day period. That is made more challenging with larger districts, but it cannot be changed at this point, as election law cannot be altered six months before elections. 

One major issue in that regard is the cost of campaigning. For a large district, such a short campaign timeframe will increase the cost of election campaigns. Moreover, in larger districts, candidates will need more time and energy to connect with voters. In this case, disabled people, people who live in remote areas, and other disadvantaged groups are likely to get left behind. 

Given the 14-day campaign, even basic introductions will be difficult to achieve, let alone fostering real chances for voters to ask questions about a candidate’s agenda. This also presents an additional challenge for newer and younger candidates to  stand out in comparison to previously established politicians. 

For example, voters in some districts will have to choose between 100 and 300 candidates for 10 seats. Voters will most likely struggle to find enough reliable information about parties and candidates in 14 short days. Social media campaigning will play a major role in this election, as the younger generation is spending most of their time on social media. 

Unfortunately, since Mongolia’s 1992 constitution, abrupt political changes have become a tradition. These changes have impacted proportionality as well as the women’s quota. 

The Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (now the Mongolian People’s Party) held 92.1 percent of the parliament seats in 1992, 94.7 percent in 2000, and 59.2 percent in 2008. 

The 2008 parliament built a coalition government consisting of 45 MPP legislators, 28 DP legislators, and three independents. It introduced a mixed electoral system, which was used for the 2012 election. That poll was an exception; it made significant advances in the representation of women, with the election of 11 female deputies, and extending voter rights to Mongolian nationals living abroad. 

This system was only used once, however. The parliament changed the system shortly before the 2016 election to a single candidate elected from a single district. The electoral districts were then gerrymandered. Mongolia returned to block voting in 2020. Both of the next two elections gave the MPP supermajorities and significantly increased disproportionality. For example, in the 2016 election the MPP won 85.5 percent of seats with just 46.5 percent of votes.

As a result of these abrupt electoral changes, the MPP ruled for 24 of 32 years and was elected with a supermajority in both 2016 and 2020. Since 1992, the Democratic Party has only had a bare majority twice, after the 1996 and 2012 elections.

The Democratic Party’s dismal losses in the 2016 and 2020 elections were an eye-opener for the party. The recent shuffling and the changes in party structure have helped the party to restructure and reunite party members while welcoming new, younger faces. 

Besides frequent electoral changes, another worrying trend in Mongolian parliamentary elections is decreasing voter representation. The 2023 United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report on youth participation in electoral processes highlighted the importance of “promoting the participation of a diversity of young people during elections,” which includes mechanisms to expand opportunities for youth with disabilities to be informed and inclusive in voter representation. 

In Mongolia’s case, young people have a negative perception of politics. Ongoing corruption cases – such as those involving the “coal mafia,” missing education loans, development banks, small-and-medium enterprise loans, and the latest, the green bus fiasco – encircle political figures. This can explain why the younger generation remains disillusioned with and disinterested in politics. 

At the same time, without the participation of young people, the older generation remains in power and the interest groups stay intact. Mongolia’s fundamental challenge in the upcoming political scene is the weakly institutionalized political parties. The struggle for power and resources within parties is the primary factor that breeds corruption and prevents policy rationale. 

The recent enlargement of the legislative branch, while embracing progressive agendas, also aimed at strengthening the political parties’ credibility and raise accountability for party members and their electable profiles. The hope with the enlarged legislative body is that political parties themselves are responsible for promoting more female candidates and implementing equality and other social measures. 

Multiparty governance, in theory and practice, must result in more balanced economic policies, less controlled media, greater support for the middle class, and less corruption. On a civil society level, multiparty governance should provide a favorable environment for the protection of human rights, greater control over public institutions and the public budget, transparency, and visible progress toward the consolidation of democracy. Every election in Mongolia serves as a reminder that the democratic revolution of the 1990s was a choice, not a miracle.