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New Mongolian Leader Pledges to Cut Dependence on China

Stagnant economy and lingering disputes with foreign mining majors could hamper serious reforms.

10 July 2017

Mongolia’s new president takes office today promising to diversify the economy and reduce income inequality.

 

Khaltmaa Battulga of the opposition Democratic Party won Friday’s runoff election with  50.6 percent of the vote, defeating the ruling Mongolian People’s Party candidate Miyegombo Enkhbold by more than nine percentage points, Nikkei Asian Review reports.

 

The economy dominated the campaign rhetoric, although mudslinging and corruption allegations against both men at times overshadowed debate over the country’s stuttering economy, Bloomberg says.

 

Battulga, a real estate mogul and former martial arts champion, ran on a message of “Mongolia first” and pledged to use the country’s mining wealth for the people’s benefit, Al Jazeera reports.

 

Battulga with former Mongolian Prime Minister Norovyn Altankhuyag, via the latter's Facebook.

 

The Australian Financial Review writes that Battulga has criticized the investment agreement with mining major Rio Tinto for the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine, one of the biggest money-earners in a country whose economy depends on resource exports, mainly to China.

 

How that will sit with the foreign owners of copper, coal and gold mines remains to be seen. Last spring the government more than doubled the territory available for mineral exploration and eased regulatory and tax burdens on foreign investors. The moves came when the International Monetary Fund postponed the start of a $5.5 billion bailout after a complaint by Rio Tinto. The IMF approved the multinational bailout package shortly afterward.

 

Reorienting the country’s economic relations to a less China-centered policy is a top priority for Battulga. He has also pledged to reduce the growing wealth gap, Oneindia.com says.

 

 

  • Battulga succeeds another Democratic Party president, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, who was ineligible to run again after serving two four-year terms. The legislature remains firmly in the hands of the People’s Party, which won 65 of 76 seats in last year’s parliamentary elections.

 

  • The electoral commission barred former President Nambar Enkhbayar from seeking another term because of a 2012 conviction for graft and registration irregularities.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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