Mongolia's new electoral system results in greater representation in the parliament

Parliamentary candidates’ posters hung in Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar. Screenshot from the video “Mongolia heads to polls amid weak opposition, corruption scandals and public frustration” from the Al Jazeera English YouTube channel. Fair use.

On June 28, Mongolia held parliamentary elections, which the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) won by securing 68 out of 126 seats in the Great State Khural, Mongolia’s unicameral parliament. This victory will extend its eight-year long rule by another four.

The turnout was 69.4 percent, and the rest of the seats were divided among four parties. The Democratic Party (DP) got 42 seats, the Hun (Human) Party got eight, and the National Coalition and Civil Courage Green Party each got four seats, reaching a major milestone in Mongolian politics. It was the first time in the country’s history as many as five political parties won seats in parliament.

Here is a YouTube video with the elections results.

For decades political life in Mongolia has been dominated by the two main parties: the MPP and the DP. The MPP is the heir to the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, established in 1920. During Mongolia’s nearly 70-year-long communist era, the MPP was the only party in the country.

In 1990, Mongolia transitioned to democracy and a free market economy, changing the political landscape and giving birth to many political parties, five of which eventually merged and formed the DP in 2000. Since that transition Mongolia has been a parliamentary republic, highlighting the importance of parliamentary elections in shaping the legislative and executive branches.

A total of nine parliamentary elections were held in the last 34 years, all of which were deemed free and fair by most observers. The MPP has been a dominant force throughout this period by winning six of them due to the strong party structure and organization, large membership base, and established positions in rural areas.

DP-led coalitions won twice, and the 2004 elections resulted in a coalition government. A noticeable and worrying trend in these elections has been the declining voter turnout. The latest elections recorded 69.5 percent turnout, the lowest  since its peak in 1990, when it was a staggering 96 percent. It has been declining since 1990.

A major contributing factor to this decline have been the constant alterations made to the electoral law, which has created confusion and suspicion among voters. Mongolia has reshuffled between the majoritarian, plurality (first-past-the-post) and mixed parallel electoral systems in eight out of nine elections.

The fact that these changes were adopted by the ruling parties in the years preceding elections hinted at the fact that they were made by self-interested actors to increase their chances of re-election undermined citizens’ trust in the election process. A glaring example of it was the of the newly adopted block voting system used in the 2020 elections, which helped the MPP to win 61 out of 76 seats, although it received less than half of the total votes.

The latest change to the electoral system took place in May 2023, which saw the number of members of parliament increase from 76 to 126 and adoption of a mixed electoral system to ensure proportionality and representation.

Here is a YouTube video about the new electoral system.

The results of the new system were significant. The MPP’s supermajority turned into a slim majority with only 54 percent of the seats and four other parties either strengthened their positions or established presence in the parliament. For example, the Hun Party got eight seats in contrast to only one in the previous 2020 elections.

The weakening of the MPP’s positions were also caused by several major corruption cases, including the 2022 coal export, 2023 education fund, and 2024 bus procurement scandals. As the ruling party, the MPP bore responsibility for these gross violations, undermining its reputation.

The next four years will test Mongolia’s ability to address challenges and harness opportunities presented by greater political diversity and representation. They will also help to find out whether the country has found an optimal electoral system, which is in the interest of the whole nation, and not just one party.

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