Mongolian voters on election day 2017. Photo credit: Flickr/OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Freedom House Rating
June 2021 (due)
June 2024 (due)
June/July 2021 (due)
October 15, 2020
June 24, 2020
June 26, 2017 (Second round: July 7, 2017)
Mongolia is due to hold a presidential election in June 2021, following parliamentary elections in June 2020 and local elections in October 2020.
The two biggest parties in Mongolia are the left-wing Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) and the center-right Democratic Party (DP). The MPP, which was the ruling party during the communist era, is the oldest political party in Mongolia. In contrast, the DP consists largely of activists involved in the 1990 transition to democracy.
Politics has become gridlocked as a result of hostilities between President Khaltmaagiin Battulga of the DP and the government, appointed by the MPP. MPP holds a clear majority in the State Great Khural, Mongolia’s unicameral parliament, reaffirmed in the June 2020 elections (moreover, MPP won the October 2020 local elections). However, there are concerns that MPP manipulates the electoral rules in its favor.
Conversely, Battulga narrowly won in Mongolia’s first-ever presidential runoff 2017, but his DP only seven seats in parliament.
Widespread corruption has led to mass disillusionment with politics and protests.
Landlocked Mongolia sits between Russia and China and therefore historically served as a buffer between the two. Although Mongolia has been independent from China since 1921, China has sought to exert both economic and political influence on Mongolia. However, Mongolians’ historic suspicion of China has limited the success of China’s activities. Even though Mongolia has joined the Belt and Road Initiative, the government has set limits on Chinese investment in the country. Russia is also starting to get into the game, ramping up its economic and military involvement in Mongolia.
Nonetheless, Mongolians are skeptical of China and Russia, and have pursued greater ties to the United States as a “third neighbor” and India as a “fourth neighbor.” In that vein, Mongolia and the United States announced a strategic partnership in July 2019, provoking anger from Beijing. Despite Chinese heavy-handedness, Mongolia is resisting Chinese aggression and fighting to maintain sovereignty.
In short, Mongolia sits at both a political and a geopolitical crossroads.
Bolor Lkhaajav and Julian Dierkes, The Diplomat (January 27, 2021): With New PM, a New Generation Taking Charge in Mongolia
Manduul Bat-Orshikh, The Diplomat (January 5, 2021): Is Mongolia Ready for a Female President?
Boldsaikhan Sambuum, Washington Post (July 7, 2020): Here’s how an unpopular ruling party swept Mongolia’s June elections
DW (June 25, 2020): Mongolia elections: Landslide win for incumbent MPP
Bulgan Batdorj and Julian Dierkes, The Diplomat (May 22, 2020): Mongolia’s Next Election Will Feature New Types of Candidates – The breadth of Mongolian democracy is widening.
Michael J. Green, Foreign Policy (September 26, 2019): The United States Should Help Mongolia Stand Up to China: On Beijing’s doorstep, Ulaanbaatar continues to defy the geopolitical odds.
David Stanway, Reuters (June 26, 2019): Democratic but deadlocked, Mongolia braces for ‘inevitable’ political change
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Updated February 28, 2021