Communists reclaim power in Mongolia vote
Landslide victory could limit freedoms, analysts say

By Jeremy Page, Reuters, 7/4/2000


ULAN BATOR, Mongolia - Mongolia's former communist rulers have been swept
back to power in a landslide election victory, state media said yesterday,
crushing the forces that helped usher in democracy a decade ago.


State radio said the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, or MPRP, had
won 72 of 76 seats up for grabs in Sunday's election to Parliament, or Great
Hural.


Political analysts said the MPRP, which ruled for seven decades under Soviet
patronage, was likely to slow the pace of capitalist-style reform in the
impoverished Asian nation.


It was riding a wave of popular anger against political gridlock under the
divided Democratic Union coalition government and economic austerity
measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund.


Many of Mongolia's 2.4 million people have been plunged into poverty.


Immediately after its stunning win, the MPRP promised free education for
orphans and children of poor herder families.


Results were still trickling in from around a landlocked nation the size of
western Europe. A total 75.8 percent of 1.2 million registered voters cast
ballots.


''The full results have not come through yet but the MPRP has definitely won
a large majority,'' said one election official.


The MPRP's charismatic leader, Nambariin Enkhbayar, who studied English
literature at Leeds University in Britain, was jubilant as the scope of the
victory became apparent during the night.


''I'll open a bottle of champagne for every seat my party wins,'' he told
reporters from his party headquarters, an austere Soviet-style building in
Ulan Bator.


The MPRP held just 26 seats in the outgoing Parliament. It was dumped from
power in the last elections, in 1996.


Enkhbayar signaled a roll-back of the industrial privatization program that
was a centerpiece of the outgoing government. State industry is an MPRP
power base, and influential party members have a stake in ensuring its
survival.


''Mongolians are realizing these magic words like `privatization' don't
bring a better quality of life automatically,'' he said.


He indicated he would seek to renegotiate the terms of IMF aid to Mongolia.
The IMF has insisted on fiscal and monetary tightening to bring down
inflation and stabilize the currency, the togrog.


Many Mongolians welcomed the prospect of strong government after years of
messy democratic politics.


''People are dying of hunger and youngsters are turning to crime,'' said
herder Chimeddorj, 67, as a crowd of MPRP supporters cheered outside party
headquarters.


''The MPRP can lead our country out of this crisis of quarreling politicians
and corrupt state officials,'' said the former policeman.


There are fears that hard-line communist ideologues within the MPRP may seek
to take advantage of the party's overwhelming majority in Parliament to
restrict freedoms that have flourished since a peaceful democratic
revolution led to elections in 1990, which the MPRP won.


''We'll have to watch very carefully for any retrograde movement on basic
freedoms,'' said one Western diplomat.


This story ran on page A02 of the Boston Globe on 7/4/2000.
 Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.



Communists reclaim power in Mongolia vote
Landslide victory could limit freedoms, analysts say

By Jeremy Page, Reuters, 7/4/2000


ULAN BATOR, Mongolia - Mongolia's former communist rulers have been swept
back to power in a landslide election victory, state media said yesterday,
crushing the forces that helped usher in democracy a decade ago.


State radio said the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, or MPRP, had
won 72 of 76 seats up for grabs in Sunday's election to Parliament, or Great
Hural.


Political analysts said the MPRP, which ruled for seven decades under Soviet
patronage, was likely to slow the pace of capitalist-style reform in the
impoverished Asian nation.


It was riding a wave of popular anger against political gridlock under the
divided Democratic Union coalition government and economic austerity
measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund.


Many of Mongolia's 2.4 million people have been plunged into poverty.


Immediately after its stunning win, the MPRP promised free education for
orphans and children of poor herder families.


Results were still trickling in from around a landlocked nation the size of
western Europe. A total 75.8 percent of 1.2 million registered voters cast
ballots.


''The full results have not come through yet but the MPRP has definitely won
a large majority,'' said one election official.


The MPRP's charismatic leader, Nambariin Enkhbayar, who studied English
literature at Leeds University in Britain, was jubilant as the scope of the
victory became apparent during the night.


''I'll open a bottle of champagne for every seat my party wins,'' he told
reporters from his party headquarters, an austere Soviet-style building in
Ulan Bator.


The MPRP held just 26 seats in the outgoing Parliament. It was dumped from
power in the last elections, in 1996.


Enkhbayar signaled a roll-back of the industrial privatization program that
was a centerpiece of the outgoing government. State industry is an MPRP
power base, and influential party members have a stake in ensuring its
survival.


''Mongolians are realizing these magic words like `privatization' don't
bring a better quality of life automatically,'' he said.


He indicated he would seek to renegotiate the terms of IMF aid to Mongolia.
The IMF has insisted on fiscal and monetary tightening to bring down
inflation and stabilize the currency, the togrog.


Many Mongolians welcomed the prospect of strong government after years of
messy democratic politics.


''People are dying of hunger and youngsters are turning to crime,'' said
herder Chimeddorj, 67, as a crowd of MPRP supporters cheered outside party
headquarters.


''The MPRP can lead our country out of this crisis of quarreling politicians
and corrupt state officials,'' said the former policeman.


There are fears that hard-line communist ideologues within the MPRP may seek
to take advantage of the party's overwhelming majority in Parliament to
restrict freedoms that have flourished since a peaceful democratic
revolution led to elections in 1990, which the MPRP won.


''We'll have to watch very carefully for any retrograde movement on basic
freedoms,'' said one Western diplomat.


This story ran on page A02 of the Boston Globe on 7/4/2000.
 Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.





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