Former Prime Minister Khurelsukh wins landslide victory in Mongolia

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Former Prime Minister Khurelsukh wins landslide victory in Mongolia

The former Mongolian Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa won a landslide victory for the presidency, defeating two other candidates and strengthening the ruling party's hand in their fights over mining resources.

According to the General Election Commission, Khurelsukh, 52, declared victory after taking 67.8% of the vote on Wednesday. Internet entrepreneur and third-party candidate Erdene Sodnomzundui came in second with 20%, while Enkhbat Dangaasuren, the former chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party, came in second place at just 6%.

This result not only avoids a run-off, it means that Khurelsukh already got the most votes of any candidate in the eight presidential elections Mongolia had held since 1993. The turnout slipped to an all-time low of 59% for the presidential elections, with incumbent Battulga Khaltmaa barred from running by legal changes pushed through by Khurelsukh's party.

Khurelsukh's victory gives the MPP, the successor of the organisation that ran the Asian country of 3.3 million during decades of one-party rule, greater control over the levers of power. Besides serving as head of state and commander in chief of the military, the president can propose and veto laws and is now a chair of the National Security Council.

The local economy has begun to rebound from the Covid 19 downturn, fueled largely by demand from neighboring China for mineral exports including copper, gold and coal. Mongolia began allowing international flights earlier this month, with more than 75% of its adults vaccinated against the coronavirus as of Monday.

The vast Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine of Rio Tinto Group continues to take center stage in politics, with the MPP government challenging its contract terms and seeking more tax revenue. Mining is generating the highest income and the population is considering that it has not got what they expected, said Sumati Luvsandendev, a political analyst who heads the Sant Maral Foundation polling group.

Khurelsukh led the MPP to a landslide victory last year after pushing through international constitutional amendments that fueled concerns about Mongolia's future as an 'oasis of democracy' between Russia and China. After working with Battulga to pass the changes, Khurelsukh had a bitter falling out with the President who blaming him for public protests against the government and resigning as prime minister.

The State Great Khural, where the MPP has more than 80% of the seats, passed a law in April to prevent Battulga from seeking a six-year term under the new rules. The lawmakers subsequently overrode his veto, effectively detonating the incumbent from the field.

That left Erdene, who stepped down as the chair of the Democratic Party after the election loss last year, to represent the opposition. Enkhbat, whose former company DataCom bills itself as Mongolia's first internet service provider and domain registration, sought to appeal to voters dissatisfied with the two main parties.

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