June 29, 2012 2:00 pm

Democratic party leads Mongolia poll

Mongolia’s Democratic party has declared victory in parliamentary elections but the electoral commission has delayed the release of official results amid allegations of voting fraud.

The Democratic party said on Friday it had won at least 36 seats in the 76-member parliament, falling slightly short of a majority but still positioning the centre-left party to lead the government of the mineral-rich nation for the next four years.

However, the incumbent Mongolian People’s party and the breakaway Mongolian People’s Revolutionary party say voting fraud occurred and have demanded recounts at some stations. The election commission was due to release results within 12 hours of the polls closing on Thursday night, but has delayed the release amid the fraud allegations.

Voter turnout for Thursday’s election hit a record low of 65 per cent, signalling public disaffection with politics in a country that has routinely seen turnout of more than 80 per cent since it became a democracy two decades ago.

After the election results are officially released, the Democratic party, which has ruled together with the MPP as the junior party in the coalition for the past four years, will go into caucuses to find a coalition partner.

The close race will potentially thrust independent members of parliament into the spotlight because they could play a key role in the next government if they join a Democratic party-led coalition.

“Overall voters want change, that is clear. They are not happy with the past four years,” said Dale Choi, an analyst at Frontier Securities. “There will be a loud voice of populism and resource nationalism in parliament.”

The fraud allegations, if not resolved quickly, could complicate efforts to form a new government, however. During the last parliamentary elections in 2008, accusations of voting fraud fuelled violent riots in the capital Ulan Bator that left five people dead.

Partly as a result of the violence, this year Mongolia used electronic voting machines for the first time in an effort to combat election fraud. The machines, were shipped out to polling stations across the country last week and a test run indicated they were working well.

However the breakaway MPRP, headed by former prime minister Nambaryn Enkhbayar, alleged that in some cases the same ballot was run through the voting machine multiple times and that manipulation had occurred.

Ch. Saikhanbileg, a senior member of the Democratic party, said his group had “some concerns” about the allegations of voting fraud but intended to accept the results once announced.

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