Mongolia's young democracy tested by economic crisis

Mongolia's young democracy tested by economic crisis

Thirty-nine year old Otgonjargal left her hometown in western Zavkhan Province about 15 years ago to make a living in the capital Ulaanbaatar.

ULAANBAATAR: Thirty-nine year old Otgonjargal left her hometown in western Zavkhan province about 15 years ago to make a living in the capital Ulaanbaatar.

She sells clothes and other accessories beside a road, but business has never been as bad.

This year, her business has plunged 50 per cent as the economy shrank.

Some of her customers are no longer able to buy goods from her because they have not received their salary.

Otgonjargal blames the politicians for her ordeals.

“Of course I’m disappointed with the politicians because the value of our currency has gotten lower and lower, and even though I’ve never worked together with the politicians, from the outside, it’s easy to see that they’re not doing well.”

She is not alone.

Many Mongolians are frustrated by the government’s seeming inability to contain the economic fallout.

One said: “Our government is not doing well enough right now because it’s filled with corruption, that’s why I’m disappointed with politicians.”

Another said that politics is really a concern in Mongolia now. Such grudges helped propel the opposition Mongolian People’s Party to a crushing victory at the polls.

Many Mongolians are frustrated by their government's seeming inability to improve the economy. (Photo: Jeremy Koh)

Political watchers say the results of June’s parliamentary elections indicates widespread frustration with the economy.

The opposition Mongolian People’s Party won in a landslide. It took 65 of the parliament’s 76 seats, leaving the incumbent Democratic Party with only nine seats.

Opposition politician Ganbat Ganchil, the Chair of the United Patriots Party said: “The reason why we’re facing the economic downturn and why the unemployment and poverty rate is rising is because of corruption. Also, due to this corruption, we’re losing a lot of investors from overseas.”

According to a poll conducted by the Sant Maral Foundation, Mongolia’s major polling organisation, over one-third of respondents said they didn’t trust any of the political parties to properly lead the country.

And 77 per cent stated that none of the parties accurately represented public opinion.

Mongolia gained independence from the Soviet Union more than two decades ago, and while the election outcome showed that democracy is at work in Mongolia, observers say the system is far from perfect.

Bolormaa Mashlai, Chairperson of the Women Leader Foundation said: “Democracy has worked out for 26 years, but what we need to do is to manage democracy, but what we did was to have too much freedom, and people are really disappointed by that because they expected too much from democracy, so we need to work on the people.

We need to make them more capable, educate them and provide them with more information.”

Sandwiched between China and Russia, Mongolia is a young democracy trying to sail through an economic storm.

And the current crisis will put to test not just the country’s economic strength, but also that of its political system.

Source: CNA/mn