R 100848Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY ULAANBAATAR
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 2772
INFO AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHINGTON DC
DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
NSC WASHINGTON DC
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK C O N F I D E N T I A L ULAANBAATAR 000097
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/09/2034
SUBJECT: 45 DAYS AND COUNTING: MONGOLIA'S PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTION KICKS OFF
REF: A. ULAANBAATAR 087
B. ULAANBAATAR 073
Classified By: Acting PolOff Christopher J. Anderson for Reasons 1.4 B
1. (C) Summary: Both the Mongolian People's Revolutionary
Party (MPRP) and Democratic Party (DP) have officially
selected their candidates for the May 24 presidential
election. Incumbent President N. Enkhbayar is the MPRP
nominee and Ts. Elbegdorj is the DP candidate. The Green
Party and the Civil Will Party have opted to forego fielding
their own candidates and have formally agreed to support the
DP. The consensus view among analysts is that Enkhbayar will
win in a close election with high turn-out. However, the DP
is optimistic and eager to avenge the hotly disputed
parliamentary elections of last summer. One concern that the
DP raises, as it has in the past, is that Russia is lurking
in the shadows to support a continued MPRP presidency. End
2. (C) Mongolia's presidential campaign is off and running,
with both the MPRP and DP selecting their official candidates
in their respective party conferences late last week.
Incumbent President Enkhbayar was first to declare his
candidacy after winning 100 percent support from his party.
Several other candidates, including current Prime Minister S.
Bayar, were reported to have considered challenging Enkhbayar
for the nomination, but in the end did not formally declare
their candidacies. Apart from Bayar, Minister of Justice and
Home Affairs Ts. Nyamdorj, Speaker of the Parliament D.
Demberel, former President N. Bagabandi, and several other
leading MPRP officials were rumored to have been interested.
Enkhbayar managed to secure unanimous consent despite polls
showing that only 44 percent of the population believes the
country is heading in the right direction.
MPRP Titans Avoid Clash
3. (C) Bayar's ex-wife, now an active DP member but still
close to key MPRP leaders, told us that Bayar and Enkhbayar
had a private meeting to resolve the dispute. Based on their
comments, she said it looked like the two MPRP heavyweights
may have reached a compromise where Bayar would support
Enkhbayar in this campaign in exchange for Enkhbayar's
support for Bayar's legislative agenda and for his candidacy
if he eventually runs for president in 2013. At the same
time, Bayar has been a very strong Prime Minister
politically, and many observers note a shift in domestic
political power from the presidency to the PM's office (see
reftels for additional information). Given Bayar's recent
statements about legislative plans to further curtail the
role of the president, he may have indicated his interest in
running for the Presidency as a way to extract concessions or
support from a politically weakened president.
DP Recycles Familiar Face
4. (SBU) For the Democratic Party, Ts. Elbegdorj,
Harvard-educated and one of the founders of Mongolia's
democratic opposition, saw off a challenge from E. Bat-Uul,
another one of the original members of the democratic
opposition, to win 65 percent of the vote at the DP
nominating conference. The DP appears to have selected
Elbegdorj based on his perceived electability and ability to
compete against Enkhbayar.
5. (SBU) Elbegdorj is an experienced politician, having
served previously as Prime Minister and DP Chairman. His
April 2006 to September 2008 party chairmanship ended in
resignation after widespread dissatisfaction with his
response to the disputed June 2008 parliamentary elections.
He was a vocal critic of those elections, and later opposed
the formation of the current coalition government.
6. (SBU) The Green Party and the Civil Will Party, the only
other parties with seats in parliament (and therefore
eligible to field presidential candidates) have formally
agreed to support the DP and campaign together. COMMENT:
While the two parties only represent two seats in parliament,
the current division of parliament understates their
strength. The various opposition parties fielded competing
candidates in many of the same districts in the last
parliamentary election, thereby splitting the opposition
vote. The creation of a unified opposition coalition could
increase the DPs chances significantly. END COMMENT
7. (C) Both parties have established their campaign
committees. The MPRP appointed Prime Minister (and MPRP
Chairman) Bayar as chairman of the central commission of the
Presidential election campaign. Secretary General U.
Khurelsukh will serve as campaign manager. Khurelsukh has a
fearsome reputation as a political fighter and is rumored to
have a newfound loyalty to Enkhbayar after the President
reportedly helped him overturn a corruption conviction.
Although nearly impossible to substantiate, rumors allege
that the President arranged the initial conviction after
Kurelsukh critiqued Enkhbayar's wife's influence in the party
and as a demonstration of his remaining political strength.
For the DP, First Deputy Prime Minster (and party chairman)
N. Altankhuyag will lead Elbegdorj's campaign, with Secretary
General D. Erdenebat appointed as General Manager of the
campaign. COMMENT: The active involvement of the top two GOM
officials and other party leaders in the election campaign
may hamper the government's activities through election day
on May 24. END COMMENT.
8. (U) The final results of the election should be submitted
to Parliament by June 24, a month after voters go to the
polls. The General Election Commission (GEC) has requested
clarifications from the Supreme Court on certain clauses
regarding resolving disputed elections. The GEC, in
collaboration with the National Center for Civil
Registration, has established a working group to finalize
voting lists in an effort to reduce the possibility of
disputes after the election.
Geopolitics Never Rest
9. (C) At an April 9 meeting, leading DP Member of Parliament
Z. Enkhbold, also serving as Elbegdorj's campaign finance
chairman, told us that the Russians are considering active
engagement in the election in an effort to help the MPRP.
According to Enkhbold, the Russians see the DP as
"U.S.-friendly," and they want Enkhbayar to continue on in
office. He said that leading MPRP members are working on a
possible mid-May visit by Russian PM Putin. While the visit
would not be publicly defined as election-related, Enkhbold
made clear that the single purpose would be to raise support
for Enkhbayar. Enkhbold stressed that this information is
not yet public, however, because the MPRP and Russians are
trying to determine if it will actually help Enkhbayar, or
instead backfire by drawing criticism that he and the MPRP
are too easily influenced by their northern neighbor. To
answer these questions, Enkhbbold said that the Russians are
financing a team a polling experts to talk with the public
and inform the decision. As a final thought, Enkhbold
stressed that the DP does not have the financial muscle to
compete with such Russian support, and is looking to allies
(read: the U.S.) to support the democratic process in
Mongolia. COMMENT: The MPRP-Moscow nexus is a familiar
picture that the DP draws in meetings with Western diplomats,
usually accompanied by efforts to secure financial or
campaign support in one form or another. END COMMENT.
10. (U) According to a recent research report by the Asia
Foundation, 84 percent of the electorate is expected to
participate despite general low expectations about the
fairness of the elections. Only 41 percent of the electorate
believes the election will be free and fair. The report
further suggests that public opinion about the country's
future seems to leave an opening for the opposition. Only 44
percent of those polled believes the country is heading in
the right direction and 57 percent express dissatisfaction
with the current MPRP-dominated coalition government. Those
who fear the country is headed in the wrong direction
generally expect poverty and unemployment to get worse.
There is a definite urban/rural split, with the urban
electorate more skeptical about the fairness of the elections.
11. (C) Early political punditry is focused on the selection
of Elbegdorj, and if his more confrontational style increases
the possibility of further public unrest if there is any
significant evidence of election tampering. The situation is
not helped by the Supreme Court's and the General Election
Commission's continued failure to develop clear procedures
for resolving disputed elections. Furthermore, while the
Presidency is in some ways a ceremonial position, it retains
significant influence in international relations, as
Commander-in-Chief, and as chair and one-third of the voting
membership of the National Security Council. At present, the
NSC, comprised of the President, Speaker of Parliament, and
Prime Minister is fully MPRP. While the DP is currently in a
coalition government, it does not hold any of the key
positions. A win in this election would therefore greatly
increase the DP's influence by providing them this key
gatekeeper position. END COMMENT.
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