Mongolia’s incumbent President Ts Elbegdorj is set for a second term in office after being re-elected in Wednesday’s election, paving the way for a period of stability in Mongolian politics as the country seeks to develop its vast resources of copper, gold and coal.
Mr Elbegdorj won more than 50 per cent of the vote, avoiding the need for a run-off election and handing him a strong mandate to continue the business-friendly policies that have been his hallmark over the past four years.
With the election out of the way, Mr Elbegdorj and the ruling Democratic Party, which supported his candidacy, have solidified their control of the government and are set to make a series of key decisions that will shape the future direction of Mongolia’s mining development.
First is the future of the giant copper-gold mine in the Gobi Desert, which is co-owned by Rio Tinto and the Mongolian government. The $6bn facility has been completed and is ready to start exporting copper. But its inaugural sale has repeatedly been delayed due to negotiations between Rio and the government. With the re-election of Mr Elbegdorj, analysts believe the negotiations will be swiftly concluded and the mine will start exporting copper – bringing in a crucial source of revenue to the Mongolian authorities.
Another key policy test for Mr Elbegdorj and the Democratic Party will be rewriting Mongolia’s mining law, a task that proved divisive when parliament tried to tackle it earlier this year.
Mr Elbegdorj is the son of a herder who grew up in the Mongolian countryside before being educated in the Soviet Union and later at Harvard’s Kennedy School. He was one of the leaders of Mongolia’s democratic revolution in 1989 and 1990, when the country ended more than 60 years of communist rule and established a democratic political system.
Fighting corruption has become one of his chief priorities, and during his time in office he passed a series of judicial reforms aimed at making the legal system more independent. One of the more controversial targets of the government’s recent corruption campaign was former prime minister Nambaryn Enkhbayar, who ran against Mr Elbegdorj in the 2009 presidential election and was imprisoned last year on corruption charges.
In an interview with the FT in 2012, Mr Elbegdorj said Mongolia’s political freedoms are its greatest guarantee against the “resources curse” that has plagued many countries endowed with mineral wealth. “We are proud that Mongolia has evolved as the nation with the freest economy, politics and society in the region,” he said.
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