Mongolians protest as economic ills grip country
ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (AP) — Mongolian political fringe groups protested in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, on Friday to demand the dissolution of parliament as economic woes continue to grip the country.
About 200 people including retirees, impoverished herders and disabled people took part in Friday’s demonstration outside government headquarters.
Anticipating social unrest, the government banned alcohol sales and issued a warning to the public against joining in the demonstration.
Batnasan Jargalan, a disabled man who lost his house in a government-organized land-for-apartments project, showed a contract from a construction company that did not include his household.
“I’m disabled. I have this contract which says seven households are to get apartments. But so far, I don’t have an apartment,” Jargalan said.
Like many of the capital’s 1.5 million people, Jargalan lived in one of the slum communities that ring the city but offer little in the way of amenities such as electricity and sewage treatment.
Parliamentary regulators responded to the demonstrators by saying the body can dissolve itself if two-thirds of the 76 lawmakers vote for the measure.
More than 30% of Mongolia’s people still live below the poverty line and growing income inequality and social injustice are fueling resentment against authorities and major political parties.
A landlocked country of 3 million, Mongolia boasts vast mineral wealth but has struggled to attract foreign investment in the face of plunging commodity prices and high-profile disputes between the government and large investors such as mining giant Rio Tinto.
Corruption and a bulging national debt of about $23 billion, or twice the country’s annual economic output, have also been a major drag on the economy.