Mongolia - Political background

In the thirteenth century, Genghis Khan and his successors created the largest land empire in history. By the 17th century, however, Mongolia came under Chinese control, which lasted until the fall of the Manchu dynasty in 1911. From 1911 to 1919, Mongolia declared its independence from China with Russian protection. In 1919, the Chinese successfully reestablished control over Mongolia, only to be defeated by Mongolian nationalists, Sukhe Bator and Khorloin Choibalsan. After a short-lived constitutional monarchy, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) founded the Mongolian People's Republic (MPR) under Choiblasan. He dominated government until his death in 1952 and resorted to Stalinistic practices to eliminate dissent. A series of authoritarian leaders ruled Mongolia after Choiblasan.

Mongolia remained a one-party state until 1989, when reforms in Eastern Europe and Russia affected Mongolia's domestic politics. In response to demonstrations calling for former leader Yumjaagiyn Tsedenbal's return to face trial for Stalinist crimes, the government agreed to embark on a political liberalization process. The National Democratic Party (NDP), which later contributed members to the Democratic Union (DU) coalition, formed an opposition group and pressured the government for a new constitution that would abandon the one-party system of government.

In 1990, a meeting of the State Great Hural (National Assembly) reformed the constitution and set the framework for multi-party elections later that year in the lower house. Based on the newly adopted 1992 constitution, which created a unicameral legislature, elections for the State Great Hural were held. The reformed MPRP (communists) won 70 of 76 seats. On 21 July 1992, the State Great Hural selected Puntsagiyn Jasray, a free-market economist, as prime minister. In 1993, Punsalmaagiyn Ochirbat, formerly elected president as a member of the MPRP, was reelected to the office as a candidate of the DU.

In the 30 June 1996 election for the State Great Hural, the MPRP suffered a stunning loss of its majority control by winning only 25 of 76 seats. The Democratic Union Coalition, consisting of four parties—headed primarily by the National Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party—won 50 seats. It was a stunning electoral victory for the opposition DU resulting in a generational change, with the rise of ambitious, but young and inexperienced leaders taking over the helms of government. Over the next three years, Mongolia had four different prime ministers and experienced a four-month political crisis during which the country was ruled by an interim government, with the president and the DU-controlled legislature unable to agree on a new candidate for the position. In the July 2000 elections, MPRP won a decisive victory, recapturing 70 of the 76 seats in the State Great Hural.

According to the 1992 Constitution, 76 members of the State Great Hural are popularly elected for four-year terms. The State Great Hural, which meets at least 75 days every six months, appoints and dismisses the prime minister and other administrative officials. The president is chosen by popular vote for four-year terms and nominates the prime minister in consultation with the largest legislative party. He also serves as the commander-in-chief of Mongolia's armed forces. The president guides the nation in foreign policy and serves as head of state; the prime minister, as head of government, oversees and organizes the implementation of policies and the constitution. At local levels, Mongolia is presently a unitary state divided into 21 aimags (provinces) and 334 soums (counties). Most local policies and fiscal decisions are made at the national level.

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