Mongolian president to continue economic reforms


ULAN BATOR, Reuters

Mongolia’s hardline president and reformist prime minister showed a united front on Tuesday as they sought to allay fears of a rift in their formerly Communist party that could derail crucial economic reforms.

President Natsagiin Bagabandi, who won a second term in an election on Sunday with a provisional 58 percent of the vote, said he would not stand in the way of reformists in the party that ruled Mongolia for seven decades as a Soviet satellite.

“I hope we share the same kind of goal,” Prime Minister Nambariin Enkhbayar told Reuters. “We will work together. This the reality because the whole of Mongolia is at stake.”

Enkhbayar said in an interview he hoped they could cooperate but stressed that Bagabandi’s powers were constitutionally limited and were likely to remain so for his new four-year term.

Both men said the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP), which swept back to power in a general election last year, was no threat to democracy despite holding 72 of 76 seats in the Great Hural, or parliament, and the presidency.

Bagabandi’s win was seen as an emphatic endorsement of the MPRP by an electorate longing for political and economic stability.

Former MPRP chief Bagabandi is head of a conservative faction said to be opposed to Enkhbayar, who says he wants to revamp the party along the lines of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s “New” Labour Party.

But Bagabandi gave his full backing to Enkhbayar and vowed to limit the use of his veto over parliamentary decisions.

“I shall cooperate with the parliament and government of Mongolia to ensure human rights, democracy and prosperity,” Bagabandi told a news conference.

Some analysts have expressed concerns that hardliners led by Bagabandi could stall crucial structural reforms, including privatization of key state firms.

Many Mongolians complain that a decade of economic reform since the collapse of Communism in 1990 has brought them only crime, corruption, unemployment and poor welfare and education.

But aid donors and lending agencies say Mongolia must continue painful reforms to make the transition from central planning to a market economy.

Enkhbayar said voters wanted stability, not a return to socialism.

“I think all these kinds of old dogmas of Communism are not strong but people think about the past, not as a time of revolution, but as a time of stability and a more predictable future,” he said.

“This mentality may still be in the minds of some people.”

He said about 40 percent of the MPRP supported his proposal to change the party’s name — a significant indicator of his support base.