Wednesday, July 2, 2008

In Mongolia riots follow election fraud allegations

Thomas Terry, a blogger who runs a Christian broadcast service in Mongolia, reported Jan 1:
Eagle journalists estimate there could be as many as 20,000 protesters involved. . .

It amazes me that . . . that no one (else) is covering these breaking events. . . . These are unprecedented events in Mongolia.

UPDATE: Our staff are trapped on the roof of the MPRP building. When they try to leave the premises, they are attacked and beaten. They have been unable to escape. We are trying to alert the crowds to allow our crew to leave.

COMMENT: It is alarming how many protests we received from government officials and the Mongolian CIA demanding the news coverage be shut down. There is clearly some discussion going on at high levels that part of this protest was fomented by Eagle TV.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.
State of Emergency declared, in aftermath of riots, fires in Ulan Batar
Mongolian President Nambariin Enkhbayar has declared a state of emergency for four days, after Mongolians alleging election fraud clashed with police and set fire to the headquarters of the ruling party. . . . (Reuters)
Blogger Asian gypsy ("all things Mongolian") reports Wednesday morning:
As of 6am this morning, the riots are subsiding and all the fires in the city have been put out. The MPRP building, in ruins, is still smoking. The rioters threw stones at the fire engines, and set one on fire. . . . So far, the damage is 3 dead and 100+ injured.

As expected during any chaos, looting and vandalism have begun.

Montsame reports that Modern Art Gallery was set on fire, which resulted in the destruction of some rare paintings. The staff at the Gallery were able to save majority of the art, though the total damage is yet to be determined. The Central Palace of Culture was also set on fire, with the offices inside looted. . .
Preliminary election results
Mongolia's election committee has yet to give the final result of Sunday's vote, but preliminary results give the ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) a clear majority in the 76-seat parliament. (Reuters)
According to preliminary results, the MAXH (MPRP) won 43 seats (57%) and the AN (DP) 25 seats (33%). Asian gypsy, a Mongolian citizen, reflected on what the results meant:
One could almost call it a landslide. Not entirely sure how I feel about it. Disappointed perhaps. Disappointed that the public seem to be voting mostly for the highest bidder on the handout promises. Is that the case? I can't be too sure. Considering those living below the poverty line, I do not blame them. In some ways, the Democrats have themselves to blame for the loss in this election.In another post, Asian gypsy comments that "
Results contested
The leader of the opposition Democratic Party Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj rejected the results, but international observers say that overall the election was free and fair. (Reuters)
Asian gypsy observed:
In English news, PM Bayar blamed DP's chair Elbegdorj for inciting the violence. "Elbegdorj made the very irresponsible statement of denouncing election results while official results were not yet announced," he said. (Source:CNN) I can't agree with the PM more. I have no doubt that Elbegdorj wanted protests from the public, but this level of violence is quite unprecedented.
Political players
In this post, Asian gypsy provides some background about the political players:
The current President N.Enkhbayar, a former MPRP member and leader, is without a doubt the least popular president Mongolia has had, while the MPRP Prime Minister S.Bayar has a reputation of being a Russian in a Mongolian skin. Bayar has expressed open admiration of Putin and is rumoured to have close ties with Putin administration and Russian oligarchs. One cannot help but notice the increasing Russian business interests and influences in Mongolia since Bayar took office.
Scramble for mining resources
The election saw both major parties try to outdo each other in promising shares of the bounty from the country's mines. Asia gypsy had observed:
So I hear the MPRP (the not-so-Commie anymore party) and the DP (Democratic Party) are now promising money to citizens. Not just voters, but to everyone. The Democratic Party came up with the idea of "Wealth Sharing" or literally translated as "Share of the Wealth", which will see every adult citizen of Mongolia richer by Tg1million (approx US$ 870), if they are voted into power.

Meanwhile, MPRP, not to be outdone, promises to distribute Tg1.5million (approx. US$1,300.) to each adult citizen and Tg10,000 (approx US$9) to each child.
Western mining companies had been enthusiastic about the reported election results. Keralanext reported (via gypsy):
A change in government is unlikely to affect the decision regarding strategic national assets like Oyu Tolgoi, potentially the most lucrative copper deposit in the world.
Nevertheless, as soon as the preliminary results were announced,
Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. [TSX:IVN; NYSE:IVN] shares closed up 9.3% Monday after early vote counts suggested Mongolia's pro-development ruling party will gain a parliamentary majority and remove a hurdle to construction of a huge copper mine.

The Vancouver-headquartered company, which is trying to develop the Oyu Tolgoi copper project in Mongolia with its partner Rio Tinto PLC. However, their efforts have been complicated by uncertainty over whether they will receive final approvals. . . .

Preliminary results from a weekend election suggests the ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party - which also governed the country when it was a Soviet satellite - won 41 seats in Sunday's vote.

That would give the party more than half of the 76 seats in parliament, called the State Great Khural. . . .

The two main political parties focused their campaigns on how to tap recently discovered huge mineral deposits - including copper, gold and coal - but disagreed over whether the government or private sector should hold a majority stake.

The disagreement meant the outgoing parliament was unable to pass an amendment to the Minerals Law, which kept the government from concluding investment agreements with international mining giants to develop mineral deposits in the Gobi Desert. (resource investor)

The Financial Times had this to say about the preliminary election results:

The previous broadly split parliament had failed to agree revisions to the mining law seen as essential to promoting foreign investment or to approve the long-stalled multi-billion dollar Oyu Tolgoi copper project backed by Ivanhoe Mines of Canada and Rio Tinto.

Mongolia’s large estimated reserves of resources such as copper, gold, coal and uranium have drawn increasing international interest amid rising commodity prices and the rapid economic growth of China, the grassland nation’s southern neighbour.

However, international mining executives have expressed deep frustration at slow progress in setting the terms of foreign involvement in projects such as Oyu Tolgoi and the Tavan Tolgoi coalfield.

Sumati, head of the Sant Maral independent political polling group, said the election result was likely to lead to early approval of the mining law and Oyu Tolgoi project.

Sanj Bayar, prime minister during the previous parliamentary session, had been unable to win backing for the deals from an opposition keen not to strengthen his position ahead of the elections, said Mr Sumati, who like many Mongolians prefers to go by a single name.

“Now he shouldn’t have any more trouble,” Mr Sumati said.

How to regulate foreign involvement in the mining sector has been a highly sensitive topic in Mongolia. Growing resource extraction helped to fuel economic growth of nearly 10 per cent last year, but much of the population remains mired in poverty.

So many minerals, but so much misery.

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