Monday, July 10, 2017

New Mongolian president campaigned on a platform of "Mongolia First"

Khaltmaa Battulga, a former Judo champ perhaps had been watching the US presidential campaign as his slogan of "Mongolia First" seems to mirror Trump's "America First" slogan. Battulga is a populist businessman. He belongs to the opposition Democratic Party. Overseas votes remain to be counted but Battulga had 50.6 percent of the vote, while his opponent of the ruling Mongolian People's Party, Miyegombo Enkhbold, had only 41.2 percent of the vote. Voter turnout was just over 60 percent.

The election was seen by many as a referendum on the ruling parties economic plans.While Mongolia has been democratic since the communist government collapsed about 30 years ago, politics has been growing increasingly acrimonious as economic problems have mounted and the political elite has faced increasing charges of corruption. The election was rife with mud-slinging from all sides with many in the public seeing neither runoff candidate as desirable and there were many blank ballots cast as a protest. Luvsanvandam Sumati of a polling group said:"The worst election in Mongolian history." In spite of the fact that some investor's are wary of Battalga because he wants more state control of mines and his suspicions about Chinese investment, Battalga says he will support plans for building a key railway to China. He has also praised China's Belt and Road pan-Asian infrastructure initiative. Battulga rose to fame as a wrestler. He owns a hotel, a Genghis-Khan-themed amusement part, and also food companies. Battulga ran a nationalist campaign that helped him gain votes from many younger voters who believe that Mongolia should have a greater return on its natural wealth. Battulga portrayed himself as the anti-oligarchy candidate who would keep a watchful eye on the ruling party. He also promised to bring more jobs to Mongolia and bridge the great gap in wealth with many families living in undeveloped rural and urban areas.

Just as Trump managed to adopt a populist narrative that appealed to many poorer people, Battulga was able to do the same even though he is one of the richest people in Mongolia. Battulga wants to build railroads to Russia to increase trade with it and lessen dependence on China. He also wants to build plants to process minerals instead of exporting raw materials.

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