Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Incumbent president Ts. Elbegdorj won a second four-year term in the June 2013 presidential election, defeating two opponents in the first round of voting. In late July he pardoned his predecessor, N. Enkhbayar, who had been convicted on corruption charges in 2012. The country continued to experience economic growth based on its mineral wealth during 2013, even as corruption, the power of politicians associated with specific business interests, and the politicization of the media remained key challenges to freedom and democracy.
Political Rights: 36 / 40 [Key]
A. Electoral Process: 11 / 12
Under the 1992 constitution, the prime minister, who holds most executive power, is nominated by the party or coalition with the most seats in the 76-member parliament (the State Great Khural) and approved by the parliament with the agreement of the president. The president is head of state and of the armed forces, and can veto legislation, subject to a two-thirds parliamentary override. Candidates running for president are nominated by parties but may not be party members. Both the president and the parliament are directly elected for four-year terms.
Parliamentary balloting has varied from election to election between multimember and single-member districts. Currently, 48 of the parliament’s 76 seats are awarded through majoritarian voting in single-member districts, while the remaining 28 are allocated through a proportional system according to parties’ share of the national vote.
In the parliamentary elections held in June 2012, the Democratic Party (DP) won 33 seats, the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) 25, and the Justice Coalition—comprising the revived Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) and the Mongolian National Democratic Party (MNDP)—took 11, with the rest of the seats going to independents (3) and the Civil Will–Green Party (2). N. Altankhuyag of the DP became prime minister, leading a coalition cabinet that consisted of the DP, the Justice Coalition, and the Civil Will–Green Party. Ulaanbaatar city elections were held in conjunction with the parliamentary elections for the first time. The MPP leadership in the capital was replaced with a DP majority headed by democracy activist E. Bat-Uul.
In the June 2013 presidential election, the DP-backed Elbegdorj stood for a second term. The MPP nominated member of parliament B. Bat-Erdene, a former wrestler, while the MPRP nominated Health Minister N. Udval. The involvement of three candidates raised the possibility of a second-round runoff, but Elbegdorj was able to garner just over 50 percent of the votes, winning outright in the first round.
The General Election Commission in 2013 redeployed some of the innovations of the 2012 parliamentary elections, including electronic vote counting, a video feed from inside polling stations, and nonparty domestic observers. The commission also introduced new practices, such as the release of voting statistics by time of day and age group, and free mobile-telephone credits as a “reward” for voting. Following Mongolia’s accession to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in late 2012, a large observation mission provided systematic monitoring of the election. Apart from administrative challenges with election officials at the local and national level, and some criticism of the politicization of the media, the mission confirmed previous smaller efforts and declared the election free and open.
B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 16 / 16
Mongolian democracy continues to be characterized by a vibrant multiparty landscape. The MPRP, which had ruled the country since the early 20th century, legalized opposition parties in 1990, and competitive elections have led to several peaceful transfers of power. In 2010, the MPRP rebranded itself as the MPP, but a faction led by former president Enkhbayar broke off the following year and formed a new MPRP.
While the top two parties command a large share of votes and dominate the parliament, smaller parties continue to be represented and remain viable. Political parties are largely built around patronage networks rather than political ideologies. Representatives of large business groups play an important role in funding and directing the large parties.
Voter participation in the 2013 presidential election rose slightly in the capital city, but declined further in the countryside, for a total of 66.5 percent.
C. Functioning of Government: 9 / 12
Corruption remains a serious problem in Mongolia and is viewed as pervasive. The Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC) has been actively investigating corruption allegations since 2007. In April 2012, the IAAC arrested former president and MPRP party leader Enkhbayar. He was convicted that August of relatively minor corruption and money-laundering charges, and sentenced to two and a half years in prison in November. Following his reelection in June 2013, Elbegdorj pardoned Enkhbayar. While anticorruption efforts have been stepped up, they have mostly targeted the political opposition.
Although the government operates with limited transparency, the first Citizens’ Hall was established in Ulaanbaatar in 2009 to encourage civic participation in the legislative process. Citizens have the opportunity to provide feedback on draft laws and government services by attending such hearings or submitting their views. Citizens’ Halls were given budgetary authority for the first time in 2013 through the dispersal of Local Development Funds. This measure is intended to foster local participation in politics as well as increase accountability regarding the spending of funds.
Civil Liberties: 50 / 60
D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 15 / 16
While the government generally respects press freedom, many journalists and independent publications practice a degree of self-censorship to avoid legal action under libel laws that place the burden of proof on the defendant. Journalists have been charged in defamation suits by members of parliament and businesspeople; in many cases, the charges were dropped.
There are hundreds of privately owned print and broadcast outlets, but the main source of news in the vast countryside is the state-owned Mongolian National Broadcaster. Some international media operations have moved into the Mongolian market. The government does not interfere with internet access.
Journalistic standards in Mongolia remain low. Media outlets tend to report rumors without confirmation. Political parties and their members have increasingly purchased media outlets, particularly television stations. This linkage between political interests and the press was criticized by the OSCE presidential election observation mission for blurring the lines between news and editorial content, and for not clearly identifying such politically connected ownership where it exists. However, most Mongolians are aware of the political positions of different media outlets.
Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution. The fall of communism led to an influx of Christian missionaries to Mongolia and a revival of the country’s traditional Buddhism and shamanism. Some Christian groups have reported registration obstacles and instances of harassment by local authorities. The Kazakh Muslim minority generally enjoys freedom of religion. Academic freedom is respected.
E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 11 / 12
Freedoms of assembly and association are observed in law and in practice. Numerous environmental, human rights, and social welfare groups operate without government restriction. Trade unions are independent and active, and the government has generally protected their rights in recent years. Collective bargaining is legal.
F. Rule of Law: 12 / 16
The judiciary is independent, but corruption among judges persists. The police force has been accused of making arbitrary arrests and traffic stops, holding detainees for long periods, and beating prisoners. Four senior police officers were tried for their roles in the death of rioters following the 2008 parliamentary elections. Prison deaths continue to be reported, as insufficient nutrition, heat, and medical care remain problems. President Elbegdorj issued a moratorium on the death penalty in January 2010.
Antidiscrimination laws do not address sexual orientation or gender identity, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people reportedly face societal bias, cases of assault, and mistreatment by police.
G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 12 / 16
While women comprise 60 percent of all university students as well as 60 percent of all judges, they hold only 9 parliamentary seats despite a 20 percent quota on female candidates in the 2012 parliamentary elections and the candidacy of Udval in the 2013 presidential election. Spousal abuse is prohibited by law, but social and cultural norms continue to discourage victims from reporting such crimes, and the incidence—particularly in connection with alcohol abuse—remains high. Mongolia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. The government has continued efforts to eliminate trafficking, though funding for such programs has been inadequate.
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year