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Mongolian ruling party chooses replacement for dismissed PM

September 26, 2017

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (AP) — Mongolia’s ruling People’s Party early Tuesday chose a replacement for the prime minister dismissed earlier this month over allegations of corruption and incompetence, as the resource-rich Asian nation struggles with an economic crisis and political infighting.

After an all-night party conference session, acting Deputy Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa prevailed from among the three candidates with 64 percent of the vote. He is expected to be approved as prime minister when the Great Hural, Monglia’s parliament, resumes its session next week. The MPP has an absolute majority in the body with 65 of the 76 seats.

In a speech to the party gathering, party chairman and parliament Speaker Enkhbold Mieygombo called for an end to cronyism in filling government positions.

Earlier this month, lawmakers passed a motion demanding the resignation of the prime minister and his 14-month-old Cabinet over the signing of government contracts worth $328 million with companies linked to three Cabinet members. The three have construction and mining ties, and the contracts are for roads and power transmission equipment, including substations for the mining industry.

Mongolia, a vast landlocked country of 3 million squeezed between China and Russia, boasts vast mineral wealth but has struggled to court foreign investment amid plunging commodity prices and disputes between the government and large investors such as mining giant Rio Tinto.

The government has also been weighed down by a national debt of about $23 billion, or twice the country’s annual economic output, and recently obtained a $5.5 billion bailout led by the International Monetary Fund that imposes strict curbs on expenditure and seeks to boost hard currency reserves. The IMF governing board has temporarily suspended the program in order to evaluate the new government’s willingness to implement it.

Among his previous posts, Khurelsukh has served as emergency management minister and party general secretary. He is considered a charismatic leader with influence over younger politicians who have clashed with the MPP establishment. Most of the initial 30 lawmakers who started the parliamentary motion to dismiss the government were his supporters and close associates.

In July, populist business tycoon and ex-judo champion Khaltmaa Battulga of the Democratic Party was elected president, edging out the establishment MPP candidate in a runoff.

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