Mongolia’s President Khaltmaa Battulga has threatened to go on a hunger strike or stage a sit-in to pressure parliament to voluntarily disband for failing to stand up to the country's economic challenges. Battulga outlined his position during an interview with Mongolia’s C1 TV channel on October 29.
As the president, Battulga—a business tycoon and ex-judo champion—only has limited power to introduce and veto legislation. The response of the prime minister, Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh—a motorbike enthusiast known as “Fist” renowned for his macho image—is awaited with interest.
Battulga’s stance is widely seen as a political stunt ahead of upcoming elections in 2020, with his opposition Democratic Party hoping to greatly push up its number of MPs. The 76-member parliament is controlled by the Mongolian People’s Party, which holds 85% of the seats. Battulga won the presidency by mixing populist rhetoric and anti-establishment attitudes.
Despite Battulga’s claims of economic failure, the Mongolian economy grew by 6.3% in the first half of 2018, up from 5.1% last year. The growth, however, was mainly thanks to growing commodities prices and Chinese coal demand. China replaced North Korea’s coal exports with Mongolian coal last year, after sanctions were introduced in the wake of North Korean nuclear tests.
“This is the the stage we’re at,” said the president during the interview. “I’ve tried different means by sending proposals, and we’ve discussed the matter.”
Although Battulga has presented himself as an anti-oligarchic candidate with the aim of countering the ruling Mongolian People’s Party’s ambitions, Battulga’s own party is widely seen as the party that plunged the country into an economic crisis in the first place. The infamy of the Democratic Party brought about a landslide general election victory for the Mongolian People’s Party in 2016. It is often seen as the pro-investment party, while the Democratic Party is associated with stalling talks on the underground development of the Kumtor gold mine.
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