Published: Wed, June 28, 2017
Business | By Max Garcia

No winner in Mongolia presidential vote

No winner in Mongolia presidential vote

All three candidates promised to pull Mongolia out of financial crisis, restore its stagnant economy to its former "boom" status, and reassess ties with neighbours, including China, which purchases 80 percent of its exports.

But his campaign lost steam amid allegations of an illicit land sale during his time as mayor of Ulaanbaatar, as well as a backlash against Saturday's televised debate that many thought was skewed in favor of the candidate.

Mongolians cast their votes on Monday in a presidential election seen as a referendum on the government's economic recovery plans and China's role in the country, but some disgruntled voters left their ballot papers blank in protest.

The campaign was also marked by moments of anti-Chinese sentiment, with candidate Mieygombo Enkhbold of the parliament-ruling Mongolian People's Party (MPP) publishing his family tree to rebuff claims that he had Chinese blood.

The resource-rich nation of just three million has struggled in recent years with mounting debt.

Voters said they heard little from the three about unemployment and jobs, their top concerns according to opinion polls.

Surprises during the campaign included the release of a three-year-old audio recording that reports say show Enkhbold and two MPP colleagues discussing payments for senior government positions.

The next president will inherit a US$5.5 billion bailout led by the International Monetary Fund and created to stabilise its economy and lessen dependence on China, which purchases 80 per cent of Mongolian exports.

"(The election) is truly testing the nerves of voters", analyst Gerel Orgil said.

Sainkhuu Ganbaatar of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) finished with 30.2 percent, following Enkhbold by only less than 2,000 votes.

The election committee, however, had yet to announce the victor and second place finisher as it waited for results from the last 100 of almost 2,000 polling stations. "It's been like watching a bullfight".

Meanwhile, Ganbaatar on Monday doubled down on the need to use Mongolian resources for the Mongolian people.

Enkhbold, whose party won parliamentary elections previous year by a landslide, had been widely seen as representing stability at a time when Mongolia is showing tentative signs of recovery from an economic crisis brought about by a dramatic drop in global commodity prices.

"For 27 years, we have chosen the two largest parties, but they have done nothing".

Foreign investment in Mongolia has slumped in recent years following weaker commodity prices and high-profile disputes between the government and large investors including Rio Tinto.

"Ganbaatar is the only one who speaks the voice of the regular people of Mongolia", said Zundui Gombojav, a 60-year-old unemployed disabled man. "I voted against these corrupt officials", said Enkhmaa, a 28-year-old entrepreneur and Battulga supporter, who gave only her first name. Enkhbold's party pledges to continue the IMF's program, including higher taxes and spending cuts, while Ganbaatar has criticized the International Monetary Fund.

The election committee delayed its announcement of final results from Monday's election until Tuesday morning, drawing the ire of Ganbaatar's MPRP, which cried foul.

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