Today is a major day for the people of Mongolia — all 76 seats of Parliament (known as the “State Great Hural”) are up for grabs. A lot is at stake with today’s election in particular, as Mongolia prepares to draft new economic policies to handle its vast troves of mineral resources. Proposed mining laws aim to ensure the continued growth of the country, which saw its GDP grow a notable 6.4% in 2010.
With presidential elections only a year away, many hopeful politicians are eying the position currently held by President Tsakhia Elbegdorj.
One such politician is former Mongolian President and opposition leader Nambaryn Enkhbayar. He announced his plans to run for a seat in the State Great Hural, only to have Mongolia’s General Election Committee deny him. The reason? Enkhbayar was charged with five counts of corruption by the current president’s government, all stemming from actions he allegedly committed prior to being and while acting as President (2005-2009). Similar charges have been leveled against his son and other members of his party.
In April, Enkhbayar was arrested by Mongolia’s Independent Authority Against Corruption (IACC), but has since been released on bail. As it stands, Enkhbayar’s appeal started on June 26th, rendering little chance that he will be cleared to run before the elections take place. Enkhbayar contends that the charges are politically motivated and specifically designed to prevent him from challenging the power of President Elbegdorj in the upcoming elections.
This might indeed be the case. The 2011 Global Integrity Report: Mongolia shows the country has weak appointment mechanisms for the General Election Committee, and the President approves the nominations of national-level judges — judges who might have adjudicated Enkhbayar’s trial. Additionally, no procedure dictates the qualifications to hold a position with the IACC, and thus the agency is not free from political influence.
On the other hand, while the charges are widely viewed as politically motivated, there’s always the possibility that they are legitimate. Sitting presidents in Mongolia cannot be investigated, charged with, or tried for any crimes during their time in office, so it makes sense that charges might occur after Enkhbayar was defeated in the 2009 election. In support of this argument, the corruption charges against Enkhbayar aren’t particularly recent, as they were brought against him over a year ago, and members of the State Great Hural are also immune from prosecution, leading some to question Enkhbayar’s motives for running for a seat.
Or perhaps there’s a more sinister context, in which a bit of both hypotheses stand: a “corruption fighting corruption” scenario, where the ruling party uses the judiciary to intimidate political adversaries, and politicians of all parties view the State Great Hural as a potential shelter for the corrupt, as our reporter Ch.Sumiyabazar showed in his story for the Global Integrity Report: 2011.
In these circumstances, one thing is for sure, efforts to improve transparency and accountability, as well as to close the implementation gap between the laws “on the books” and their actual implementation, are badly needed to prevent the manipulation of future elections.
— Sarah Appleby
— Image Credit: Jeremy Weate