Mongolia's governing party wins only a slim majority in parliamentary election, early results show

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (AP) — Mongolia's governing party won parliamentary elections Friday but by only a slim margin as the opposition made major gains, according to tallies by the party and news media based on near-complete results.

Preliminary results released early Saturday indicated the governing Mongolia People's Party won 68 seats in the 126-seat body, “meaning we have won the election," Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene Luvsannamsrai said.

The results were a setback for Luvsannamsrai and his party, which won 62 of the-then 76 parliament seats in the 2020 election. They will have a much less dominant position in the expanded parliament.

Official results had not been announced, due to the difficulties of gathering results from far-flung corners of the nation.

Tallies by Mongolian media indicated the opposition Democratic Party won 42 seats — a big jump from 2020 as opposition parties capitalized on voter discontent and cut into the governing party’s majority. The center-right HUN Party and two smaller parties looked set to take the remaining 16 seats.

“Through this election, people gave their evaluation on the past policy mistakes of the ruling party,” said Democratic Party leader Gantumur Luvsannyam.

Luvsannamsrai thanked even those who didn’t vote for his party, saying that for the first time five to six parties had been elected to the parliament was a “new page" in Mongolian democracy.

“Having diverse and contrasting opinions is the essence of democracy. Your criticisms will be reflected in our actions,” he said.

Julian Dierkes, a Mongolia expert at the University of British Columbia, said the Democratic Party’s strong performance showed a desire for a change in personnel, but not in policy.

He called the result surprising given internal problems within the Democratic Party and its unimpressive campaign.

“I am very disappointed in the result,” said Shijir Batchuluun, a 35-year-old marketing manager in the capital Ulaanbaatar. He said by telephone that the younger generation hadn’t turned out to vote. “It’s all the same thing again. Singers, wrestlers, businessmen won.”

Earlier Friday, about two dozen voters lined up on a staircase leading to a polling station on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar in the early morning, some complaining because it opened 10 minutes late. Some of the older voters dressed up in formal silk robes cinched with large leather belts for the occasion.

Inside, voters filled out their ballots behind a small screen and then put them into an electronic vote counting machine. Before they left, a purple dot was put on one of their fingers with a marker to prevent them from trying to vote again.

Turnout as of 10 p.m. when the polls closed, was 69.3% and was expected to reach 70% once results from remote districts are finalized and overseas voting is added on.

Mongolia, home to 3.4 million people, became a democracy in 1990 after more than six decades of one-party communist rule. While people have welcomed the freedoms that came with the end of the communist system, many have grown cynical of the parliament and its members, seeing them as working mainly to enrich themselves and their business associates.

The Mongolian People's Party has recognized those problems but largely blamed them on other political parties.

The polling station on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar is in a “ger” district, where many people first lived in nomadic tents after moving to the capital. It remains a poorer area. Many residents, particularly the older generation, support the People's Party, which also ran the country during the communist era and then transformed itself into a center-left party in the democratic era.

Naranchimeg Lamjav, a 69-year-old People’s Party member and leader of the elderly community, was among a half-dozen voters in formal outfits at the polling station.

“I support the current government led by Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene, because they are establishing justice and starting the new era of 30 years,” she said.

But some younger voters expressed disappointment with the People’s Party and said they chose younger candidates who they hoped would bring change.

Enkhmandakh Boldbaatar, 38, said he voted for neither the People’s Party nor the Democratic Party, saying they also had not performed well. Nineteen parties are vying for seats in the parliament.

“I’ve been living here for 38 years, yet the area is the same,” he said.

Corruption scandals have eroded confidence in the government and political parties. Besides the center-right Democratic Party, the HUN Party has emerged in this election as a potential third force.

In addition to corruption, major issues for voters included unemployment and inflation in an economy rocked first by the COVID-19 pandemic and then by the fallout from the war in Ukraine. The country's livestock herders were also hit by a “dzud” this year, a combination of severe weather and drought, that killed 7.1 million animals.

Climate change and access to water in the water-stressed country weigh heavily on the minds of many herders, like Khandaa Byamba, 37, who lives in Dundgobi province in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert.

She told The Associated Press in an online interview that candidates had promised water in the region — where herders and mines are competing for scarce groundwater. Both are pillars of Mongolia's economy.

“The Gobi is in dire need of water. It is highly doubtful whether or not they will deliver on their promises,” she said.


Ghosal reported from Hanoi, Vietnam.