Since it first held a general election, back in 1990, Mongolia has had a series of nationwide ballots, both for its parliament, the State Great Khural (SGKh), and for its president. The year 2012 sees elections for the SGKh held once again, with a variety of parties, groups and factions vying for power.

LONG-TERM PEDIGREE: The party with the longest history, as well as the longest period in office, is the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP), which first took office in 1921, changing its name to the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) in 1924, then back again to the MPP in 2010. The MPRP was Mongolia’s communist party, but is a long way from communism today. Indeed, it is often seen as the most pro-business party in the SGKh. However, it does undoubtedly still gain a great deal of prestige as the force that historically kept Mongolia independent.

This association is one reason a faction of the party still campaigns for the re-adoption of the MPRP name. The party has also inherited a branch network that gives it a grassroots network that other parties lack.

DIVISIONS: Yet among ordinary supporters a more social democratic outlook is evident than within the leadership. A 2007 poll of MPRP supporters by the Sant Maral Foundation, a public opinion research group, found that 23% supported democratic socialism and 31% a social market economy. Only 18% supported a liberal market economy. That was still a higher percentage, though, than in the MPP’s main current rival, the Democratic Party (DP). Among their supporters only 11% supported a liberal market economy in 2007. This is partly because of the DP’s chequered composition, with the current structure the result of a series of mergers and splits since 1990. Electorally, this disunity has historically proved a disadvantage, benefitting the MPRP.

Indeed, in 1990 the MPRP ran against three opposition parties: the Mongolian Democratic Party (MDP), the National Progress Party (NPP) and the Mongolian Social Democratic Party (MSDP), and in 1992 against two: the Mongolian National Democratic Party (MNDP) – a merger of the MDP and NPP – and the MSDP. The MPRP won both elections resoundingly.

The next parliamentary ballot was held in 1996, with the opposition MNDP and MSDP uniting as the Democratic Union (DU), and this time winning. The DU won 46.4% of the votes, compared with the MPRP’s 40.6%, although, again thanks to NPP, the DU won 50 out of the 76 seats in the SGKh. The DU fragmented again into three parties for the 2000 parliamentary elections. The MPRP thus returned to office, winning the 2004 elections as well. In the latter ballot, the opposition parties reformed as the Motherland-Democracy Coalition (MDC), with neither they, nor the MPRP, able to form a majority in the GSKh. A coalition resulted.

The 2008 elections saw another MPRP triumph, this time against an opposition coalition running under the DP flag. Unusually, this vote was followed by some disturbances in Ulaanbaatar, in addition to allegations of fraud by the DP. Yet the eventual outcome was the coalition government of today, with both MPRP and DP members in the cabinet.

PRESIDENCY: Running throughout these parliamentary elections have also been a string of presidential ballots. The first direct election for this post was in 1993, with P. Ochirbat winning as a joint MNDP/MSDP candidate. Ochirbat had, since 1990, been president as a member of the MRPR. In 1997, the MPRP returned though, placing N. Bagabandi in office, with Bagabandi winning a second term in 2001. He was succeeded by N. Enkhbayar, also of the MPRP, in 2005, although Enkhbayar then failed to gain re-election in 2009, losing to Ts. Elbegdorj of the DP.

The next presidential election is due in 2013. In the run-up to the 2012 general election, the MPP and the DP are likely to remain the main contending blocs, as the MDP withdrew from the race in early 2012. Some see a future split in the MPP with the more pro-business faction forming its own grouping. For now, there is broad consensus on economic matters, but with a right of dissent reserved by factions of both parties.