Following a peaceful revolution in 1990, Mongolia began holding multiparty elections and established itself as an electoral democracy. Political rights and civil liberties have been firmly institutionalized, though the two dominant parties continue to rely on patronage networks, and widespread corruption increasingly hampers further development.
- In March, the parliament passed legislation allowing the National Security Council (NSC) to recommend the dismissal of the anticorruption agency’s chief, top prosecutors, and judges. The anticorruption chief, Supreme Court chief justice, and prosecutor general were dismissed by President Khaltmaa Battulga later that month, while another 17 judges were dismissed in June.
- In November, Mongolia adopted constitutional amendments that will strengthen the power of the prime minister; the amendments will also limit future presidents to a single six-year term beginning in 2025.
- In January, parliamentary speaker Miyeegombo Enkhbold was ousted by the legislature. Enkhbold was implicated in the sale of state offices in 2016, and was accused by the prime minister of engineering an unsuccessful no-confidence vote against him in 2018.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
Under the 1992 constitution, the president is directly elected for up to two four-year terms. Under constitutional amendments adopted in November 2019, presidents will only serve one six-year term beginning in 2025. Battulga of the Democratic Party (DP) was elected in 2017 following a campaign that offered little discussion of policy and was instead characterized by allegations of corruption levied by the candidates against one another. No candidate took a majority in the first round, and a runoff was necessary for the first time in Mongolia’s democratic history.
In the first round, some voters voiced frustration with the main parties’ candidates by selecting a none-of-the-above option. The number of blank ballots jumped to 8.2 percent in the second round, in which Battulga took 50.6 percent, defeating Miyeegombo Enkhbold of the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP). An Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) election monitoring mission assessed the polls as well run and credible, but noted a lack of analytical media coverage during the campaign.
The prime minister, who holds most executive power in Mongolia’s hybrid parliamentary-presidential system, is nominated by the party or coalition with the most parliamentary seats and is approved by lawmakers with the president’s agreement. Amid factional infighting that followed the party’s loss in the 2017 presidential election, the MPP-dominated parliament voted to remove the incumbent government and install Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh as prime minister. The November 2019 constitutional amendments allow the premier to appoint and dismiss cabinets without presidential approval.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
Members of the 76-seat parliament, the State Great Hural, are directly elected for four-year terms. In the 2016 election, which was held under a first-past-the-post system, the MPP won 65 seats. The formerly governing DP was reduced to just 9 seats, with an independent popular singer and a lone representative of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) claiming the remainder. OSCE monitors called the polls orderly.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?||3.003 4.004|
Electoral laws are generally fair, though they are often changed shortly before elections and tend to favor the two largest parties. In 2016, the OSCE criticized electoral reform processes that brought about the majoritarian parliamentary system as rushed and opaque, and noted that new districts were drawn inequitably.
In December 2019, the parliament approved a new round of changes that eased eligibility regulations and tightened campaign finance laws. The parliament also mandated the use of a plurality-at-large voting system for the 2020 parliamentary election.
The General Election Commission (GEC) is often regarded with some suspicion as to possible political influence, though it impartially conducted the 2017 presidential election.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?||4.004 4.004|
Mongolia features a multiparty system, though electoral reforms enacted in 2016 encouraged a shift to two-party dominance. Political parties are built around patronage networks rather than political ideologies. Representatives of large business groups play an important role in funding and directing the two largest parties. New political movements may form and operate freely, and smaller political parties have previously held legislative seats. However, a perceived need for significant funding may dissuade some potential organizers of new political movements.
Under constitutional amendments adopted in November 2019, political parties must maintain a membership of at least 1 percent of the electorate by 2028; only 6 of Mongolia’s 35 registered political parties had that many members in 2019.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||4.004 4.004|
There are no undue barriers preventing opposition parties from gaining power through elections, though there are practical hurdles. The MPP and DP have remained the two largest political forces in the country, regularly alternating in government and establishing a record of peaceful transfers of authority.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?||4.004 4.004|
Powerful business interests have some influence over candidates, and have supported them through a nontransparent party financing system. However, candidates and voters are generally free to make political choices without excessive outside influence, in part because corporate interests are balanced across various factions of the two main parties.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, religious, gender, LGBT, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?||4.004 4.004|
All adult citizens other than those who are incarcerated are entitled to full political rights, and these are generally observed in practice. However, despite quotas supporting gender diversity, women remain underrepresented in politics, holding about 17 percent of parliamentary seats and few senior government posts. LGBT+ people also face some societal discrimination that hampers their ability to advocate for their rights in the political sphere, though such advocacy has been increasing.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||4.004 4.004|
Freely elected representatives are duly seated and generally able to craft government policy without improper interference. However, corporations, aided by opaque party finance procedures, have also been able to influence policymaking.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||2.002 4.004|
Corruption is endemic in Mongolia and is widely perceived to have worsened in recent years, particularly with respect to state involvement in the mining sector. Anticorruption laws are vaguely written and infrequently enforced. Investigations into corruption allegations are often dropped by prosecutors before reaching definitive conclusions. The Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC) has been criticized as ineffective in pursuing cases, most prominently one in which parliament speaker Enkhbold allegedly sought to sell state offices to bolster party finances in 2016.
In 2018, evidence emerged that leading political figures and state officials siphoned funds from a government program meant to support small and medium-sized enterprises. A faction within the MPP attempted to oust the government with an unsuccessful no-confidence vote that November. Prime Minister Khürelsükh denounced the vote as an attempt by Enkhbold and his allies to protect their own corrupt interests, and Enkhbold was removed as speaker in January 2019. His successor, Gombojav Zandanshatar, assumed the post in February.
The IAAC’s independence was weakened in March 2019 when emergency legislation allowed the National Security Council (NSC), made up of the president, prime minister, and parliament speaker, to recommend the chief’s dismissal before the end of their term. Later that month, President Battulga dismissed the chief on the NSC’s recommendation; Mongolia’s prosecutor general, who previously called for prosecutions against lawmakers implicated in corruption, was also dismissed.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||3.003 4.004|
There are many laws and regulations designed to maintain government transparency and accountability. However, implementation and enforcement of these laws is inconsistent. The 2011 Law on Information Transparency and Right to Information contains exemptions allowing certain types of information to be withheld from the public. Authorities often invoke these exemptions, as well as the State Secrets Law, to limit disclosures.
|Are there free and independent media?||3.003 4.004|
Press freedom is generally respected, and media outlets collectively present a wide range of views. However, coverage can be partisan, and the OSCE noted xenophobic rhetoric and unsupported allegations of corruption in the media during the 2017 election campaign. Ownership of media companies remains opaque and subject to much speculation. Many journalists practice self-censorship in order to avoid offending political or business interests and facing costly libel suits. Journalists can also be forced to pay administrative fines for publishing false and defamatory information under a broadly worded 2017 law.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||4.004 4.004|
Individuals are free to practice their religion under the law and in practice, though religious groups are required to register with the government, and the ease of registration procedures varies by region and locality.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||4.004 4.004|
Academic freedom is generally respected.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||3.003 4.004|
There are few significant impediments to free and open private discussion. Fear of repercussions from powerful actors may continue to deter open expression for some.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||4.004 4.004|
Freedom of assembly is upheld in practice. A number of protests took place, largely without incident, in 2019; demonstrators held rallies over air pollution, corruption, and economic and housing difficulties during the year.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||4.004 4.004|
Numerous environmental, human rights, and social welfare groups operate without restrictions, though most are very small. Individual activists sometimes report intimidation and harassment in the course of their work.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||3.003 4.004|
Trade unions are independent and active, and the government generally respects their rights to bargain collectively and engage in legal strike actions. However, labor rights are restricted for certain groups, such as foreign and temporary workers, and there are some reports of employers unlawfully disrupting union activity. A number of public-sector unions held strikes during 2018 over salaries and other issues.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||2.002 4.004|
Judges are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Judicial General Council, whose five members in turn are nominated by the three tiers of courts, the bar association, and the Justice Ministry. However, legislation passed in March 2019 allows the NSC to recommend the dismissal of judges; Battulga dismissed the Supreme Court’s chief justice that month, alongside the IAAC chief and prosecutor general. In June, another 17 judges, including five Supreme Court justices, were dismissed by the NSC.
Corruption and political influence in the daily work of judges remain concerns.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 due to the abrupt dismissal of judges and chief prosecutors under emergency legislation that allowed the NSC to remove them.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?||3.003 4.004|
Due process rights are generally respected, but some cases of arbitrary arrest and detention have been reported, and the right to a fair trial can be undermined by intimidation or bribery.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?||3.003 4.004|
While the population faces few major threats to physical security, there have been reports of police illegally using physical abuse to obtain confessions. Some prison and detention facilities feature insufficient nutrition, heat, and medical care.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||3.003 4.004|
There are no formal barriers to equal treatment under the law. Discrimination based on gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other categories is prohibited. However, women and LGBT+ people continue to face societal discrimination and harassment, including in the workplace. Public events in support of LGBT+ equality have grown in attendance and visibility over the past several years.
Rape and other acts of sexual violence against LGBT+ people have historically gone unprosecuted. However, a 2017 criminal code revision includes stronger protections for this community; law enforcement officials have gradually received training to comply with the new code since its adoption.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?||4.004 4.004|
The government respects freedom of movement, including internal and foreign travel. Exit bans imposed on individuals involved in legal cases are overseen by the courts.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?||3.003 4.004|
People are generally free to own property and establish private businesses, though state-owned enterprises play a prominent role in some sectors. Corruption also hampers many private business activities. Officials have reportedly withheld operating licenses and other documentation from businesses until bribes are paid. There is a history of corruption and government interference in the mining industry.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?||3.003 4.004|
Individual rights on personal status issues such as marriage and divorce are protected by law. However, domestic violence remains a problem. The government has initiated programs to encourage better police responses to domestic violence complaints in recent years. A government survey conducted with the UN, published in 2018, found that nearly a third of women faced physical or sexual abuse from a partner, and just 10 percent of those who had suffered severe sexual violence by a nonpartner reported the crimes to the authorities.
Sexual harassment, which is not explicitly restricted, is widespread. In late October 2019, Constitutional Court chairman Dorj Odbayar was accused of harassing a flight attendant on a flight bound for South Korea. Odbayar was removed as chairman in November, though he remained as a member; South Korean authorities were investigating the case at year’s end.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||2.002 4.004|
The government has struggled to cope with economic inequality, particularly as large numbers of rural Mongolians migrate to cities that lack sufficient housing and infrastructure. New housing continues to be constructed, but many existing residents have reportedly been left homeless by urban redevelopment projects.
Women, children, people living in poverty, and other vulnerable segments of the population are at some risk of becoming trafficking victims, and are compelled to engage in sex work, forced labor, or begging. Workers in the mining industry are subject to exploitative conditions, as are contract workers from China. The government has taken efforts to better prosecute trafficking cases, but corruption and a lack of will to address the issue impedes progress.
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Global Freedom Score84 100 free