Guest post: Mongolian democracy and its oligarchs

from the Financial Times beyond brics..

April 26, 2013, By Julian Dierkes of the University of British Colombia

Over the weekend Mongolia will host the seventh ministerial conference of the Community of Democracies, a global caucus of democratic nations formed with the intention of fostering democracy around the world. For Mongolia, holding the chairmanship and hosting the ministerial conference are confirmation of its achievements in democratic development.

The establishment of democracy in Mongolia appears unlikely in hindsight and in comparison with other cases.


The main concern about the role of businessmen in parliament and cabinet is, of course, that their private interests may trump their obligation to act in the public interest as legislators. This is the fear that motivates the beefed-up anti-corruption and conflict of interest legislation and enforcement in Mongolia. The major parties are complicit in the presence of rich politicians by charging candidates a fee that is used to fund campaign activities. Mongolian democracy is wrestling with one of the challenges – campaign finance – that all democracies seem to face worldwide.

The parties also suffer from a lack of an ideological or political basis. While the DP was in the 1990s seen as a more liberal party, in the European sense of being business-friendly, this distinction has long gone. The MPP has lost all its socialist origins. This lack of an ideological base has not only opened the parties to powerful businessmen, but has also created space for short-term populism in debates about mining policy, for example.

Like other democracies, Mongolia continues to live with institutional short-comings, less-than-stellar politicians and occasional scandals. Given the surprising emergence and durability of democracy in Mongolia, it is entirely appropriate to celebrate this achievement by hosting an international democracy caucus in Ulan Bator.

Julian Dierkes is associate professor at the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Colombia.

Link to the entire article:




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