ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (AP) – Mongolians vote in parliamentary elections at more than 2,000 polling stations across the vast, lightly populated country between China and Russia.
Economic concerns, corruption and public services dominate the concerns of the country’s 3 million people, about half of whom live in the capital Ulaanbaatar. Electricity and wastewater treatment is particularly scarce in the slums around the capital, mostly populated by former herders who have given up life on the steppe.
The polling stations opened at 7 am and closed at 10 pm. The final results are not expected until Thursday. Some also voted on mobile polling stations on Tuesday.
Mongolia has maintained a 30-year democracy that was established after a new constitution was passed in 1992 after six decades of communism. The Mongolian People’s Party aims to keep the 65 seats it won in 2016 in the Great Khural with 76 seats, while its main rival, the Democratic Party, will attempt to recover some of its losses. More than 600 candidates run in 29 constituencies according to a system that returns two to three members from each district.
Urban areas in the largely rural country are the most controversial, with 28 candidates in a district of Ulaanbaatar.
Landlocked Mongolia has an enormous wealth of minerals, but has struggled to attract foreign investment due to the sharp fall in commodity prices and high-profile disputes between the government and major investors, such as mining giant Rio Tinto.
Corruption and a bulging national debt of about $ 23 billion, or twice the country’s annual economic output, have also put a major brake on the economy.
That means more than 30% of the Mongolian population lives below the poverty line, and resentment over income inequality and vaccination can increase opportunities for outsiders.
However, the MPP is still expected to make a strong showing based on its ability to lead the government and deal with the country’s COVID-19 outbreak, in which only about 200 imported cases have been recorded with no deaths.
MPP candidates include current Prime Minister Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh, Cabinet Secretary Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene, and former presidential candidate Badmaanyambuugiin Bat-Erdene. The Democratic Party’s head of state, President Khaltmaagiin Battulga, elected in 2017, is not on the ballot.
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