In Mongolia, the arrests of candidates aiming for parliamentary seats have sparked discussions about the country's democratic process. The detention of Nyamtaishiryn Nomtoibayar, a former Labor Minister, before the 2020 election, highlights challenges within the nation's democracy.
After being expelled from his party due to internal disagreements, Nomtoibayar lost his parliamentary immunity, which has raised questions. However, his arrest, based on allegations of abuse of power, seems to contradict the established candidate immunity under the constitution.
The election rules in place have some restrictions on who can run for office. Candidates accused of corruption cannot become candidates.
On June 18, 2020, in the Chingeltei District Court of First Instance in Ulaanbaatar, a criminal case was heard involving seven individuals, including former Prime Minister Sanjiin Bayar.
During the court proceedings, a significant decision was made: all suspects, except Bayar, were to be held in detention until the next trial.
As per the district court's viewpoint, former Prime Minister Bayar, former Finance Minister Sangajavyn Bayartsogt, and five others were under suspicion for potentially causing harm to national interests. This suspicion stemmed from their involvement in an agreement related to the development of the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine.
The legal proceedings involving politicians began two years ago. In 2018, Bayartsogt and three other individuals occupying high government positions were detained on allegations of misusing power and unjust enrichment.
On June 18, a significant ruling was made: six suspects were ordered to remain in detention until the upcoming trial scheduled for June 26. However, former Prime Minister Bayar was released on bail.
Among the six detained individuals, five are candidates aspiring for parliamentary seats. This unprecedented situation has led to a unique scenario where six candidates are competing for parliamentary positions while being held in pre-trial detention.
Earlier, the Mongolian court had already decided to detain three other candidates: ex-MP Nyamtaisharyn Nomtoybayar, MP and former Prime Minister Erdenebat, and independent candidate Bat-Yalalt.
In response to these developments, rallies have taken place in the capital of Mongolia, with citizens showing their support for the detained politicians. The legal representatives for the detainees have vocally demanded justice from the court system, emphasizing the importance of upholding the rule of law.
One aspect of uncertainty remains: it is unclear whether the Central Election Committee had authorized the arrest of these political candidates.
Mongolia has held parliamentary elections that were widely recognized as free and fair since its democratic transition in 1990. In the 2020 elections, 606 candidates are competing for 76 seats in the parliament, known as the State Great Khural.
Although not flawless, every democratic elections in Mongolia included competition among multiple parties, resulting in peaceful transfers of authority, and been widely recognized as open and equitable by the majority of observers.
These accomplishments serve as a testament to Mongolia's enduring strength as a relatively young democracy that has displayed remarkable resilience.