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 rather than a competition of policy visions, and widespread corruption hampers further development.
- Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh of the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) resigned as prime minister in January, ostensibly in response to COVID-19-related protests. However, he was nominated to run and won election for the presidency in June with 67.69 percent of the vote. The opposition National Labor Party (HUN) candidate Enkhbat Dangaasuren finished second, with 20.31 percent of the vote, which represented the largest margin of victory since the establishment of the democracy in 1990.
- President Khürelsükh announced in September that he would relinquish the authority to appoint judges to allow for greater judicial independence. However, this was not codified in legislation by the end of the year.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
Under 2019 amendments to the 1992 constitution, the president is directly elected for a single six-year term. Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh of the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) resigned as prime minister in January 2021, ostensibly in response to COVID-19-related protests but was nominated to run as the MPP candidate for president in the June elections. The Democratic Party (DP) attempted to renominate President Khaltmaa Battulga, whose first presidential term had begun before 2019 constitutional amendments that created a one-term limit were enacted. In April, however, the Constitutional Court barred Battulga from running again. Due to internal party turmoil, in May two separate DP factions nominated former prime minister Norovyn Altankhuyag, whose candidacy the General Election Commission (GEC) rejected, and party chair Sodnomzundui Erdene, whose candidacy the GEC accepted, despite protests from within the party.
In response to the Constitutional Court’s decision to bar him from running again, President Battulga attempted to dissolve the MPP by decree, alleging that the party was no longer independent and had become an arm of the military. Neither the Supreme Court nor Parliament adhered to the decree.
The election campaign for the presidency occurred with some COVID-19 restrictions in place that may have prevented some voters from participating, particularly those who live in Ulaanbaatar but are registered to vote elsewhere. Voter turnout in the June election reached 59.35 percent, only slightly lower from the 2017 election. Khürelsükh won the presidency with 67.69 percent of the vote and the greatest margin of victory in any presidential election since 1990. Erdene only received 5.99 percent of the vote while the opposition National Labor Party (HUN) candidate Enkhbat Dangaasuren received 20.31 percent. There were no significant irregularities reported during the election by an observer mission from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Oyun-Erdene Luvsannamsrai was confirmed by Parliament to replace Khürelsükh as prime minister in January 2021.
|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 elected for four-year terms. All members were elected to multimember constituencies in the June 2020 elections, with 48 elected via simple-majority voting and 28 via proportional representation. The MPP won 62 seats while the DP won 11. The Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, the HUN, and an independent each won 1 seat. Turnout stood at 73.7 percent. An OSCE electoral observation mission was in Mongolia for the election.
|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.
While the GEC is sometimes regarded with suspicion over political influence, no major complaints arose from its management of the June 2021 elections other than those associated with the nomination of the DP candidate.
|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|
While the Mongolian political system features multiple parties, it has also been marked by the dominance of the MPP and DP in the past. Parties are built around clientelist patronage networks rather than policy platforms. Representatives of large business groups play an important role in funding and directing the MPP and DP.
The DP has been wracked with internal turmoil in recent years, and the HUN has stepped into the political space it has vacated.
|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 rise of HUN illustrates that there is room for a new political party to gain support.
|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-finance 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. There have been fears about outside (most commonly, Chinese or Russian) interference in Mongolian elections, though no evidence of such interference came to light in the 2021 elections.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, 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. No party nominated a woman as a presidential candidate in 2021. Ethnic Kazakh parliamentarians are regularly elected in Bayan-Ölgii, which is predominantly Kazakh.
LGBT+ people face some societal discrimination that hampers their ability to advocate for their interests in the political sphere, though such advocacy has been increasing in recent years.
|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.
Parliamentarians were previously allowed to hold concurrent cabinet positions, effectively making a relatively large number of members bound to the premier. Constitutional amendments passed in 2019 limited the number of parliamentarians who could serve in a cabinet.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||2.002 4.004|
Corruption, which is endemic in Mongolia, 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. The Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC) has been criticized as ineffective in pursuing cases. The IAAC’s independence was weakened in 2019 when emergency legislation allowed the National Security Council (NSC) to recommend the chief’s dismissal before the end of their term. The chief and the prosecutor general, who had called for prosecutions against parliamentarians implicated in corruption, were dismissed that year.
High-profile corruption cases were resolved in 2020. For example: in May, former prime minister Mendsaikhany Enkhsaikhan received a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence for corruption, but had his sentence was reduced in November. Former prime ministers Jargaltulgyn Erdenebat and Sanjaagiin Bayar received prison sentences over separate accusations of corruption in July.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||3.003 4.004|
While there are many laws and regulations designed to maintain government transparency and accountability, implementation and enforcement is inconsistent. The 2011 Law on Information and Transparency and Right to Information contains exemptions allowing certain types of information to be withheld from the public, which authorities often invoke to limit disclosures. The 2019 constitutional amendments established an auditing body that would maintain powers over the government. The E-Mongolia platform, which is meant to make government services more accessible, launched in October 2020 and is a priority on Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene’s agenda.
|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; the OSCE noted in its 2021 election observation mission report that many media outlets are dependent on the finances of their politically connected owners, who attempt to exert editorial control. Ownership of media companies remains opaque. Many journalists self-censor to avoid offending political or business interests and facing costly libel or defamation suits.
Authorities imposed criminal penalties for the dissemination of purported disinformation in March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold worldwide. Journalists reportedly engaged in self-censorship while reporting on the pandemic.
|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 continue to deter open expression for some.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||4.004 4.004|
Freedom of assembly is upheld in practice, though public assembly was restricted for much of 2021 under COVID-19-related measures.
|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 small. Individual activists sometimes report incidents of intimidation and harassment.
|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.
|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 2019 allows the NSC to recommend the dismissal of judges. President Khürelsükh announced in September 2021 that he would voluntarily relinquish his authority to appoint judges to allow for greater judicial independence. However, this was not codified in legislation by the end of the year.
Corruption and political influence in the daily work of judges remain concerns.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?||3.003 4.004|
Due-process rights are generally respected, but cases of arbitrary arrest and detention have been reported. 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 Mongolians face 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. A 2017 criminal code revision includes stronger protections for this community; law enforcement officials have gradually received training to comply with the new code.
|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. Exit bans imposed on individuals involved in legal cases are overseen by the courts.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought some temporary restrictions on domestic movements, but perhaps more significantly has severely reduced air travel, including restricting Mongolians’ ability to return to the country from abroad.
|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 United Nations (UN) and published in 2018 found that nearly a third of women faced physical or sexual abuse from a partner. Just 10 percent of those who had suffered severe sexual violence by a nonpartner reported the crimes to the authorities. Sexual harassment is not explicitly restricted and is widespread.
|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. Their situation has become even more precarious as the capital of Ulaanbaatar has restricted the registration of new residents in an effort to curb winter-time air pollution.
Women, children, people living in poverty, and other vulnerable segments of the population are at some risk of becoming trafficking victims, and can be compelled to engage in sex work, forced labor, or begging. Mine workers are subject to exploitative conditions, as are contract workers from China. The government has made efforts to better prosecute trafficking cases, but corruption and a lack of will to address the issue impede progress.
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