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  • Writer's pictureAmar Adiya

How to lose an election: Erdene gets it all wrong

DP chairman Erdene at the press conference after the parliamentary elections, June 2020

The Democratic Party (DP) increased their seat number in the parliament of Mongolia from 8 to 11 in the 2020 legislative elections. But it was a heavy defeat for DP. All current DP lawmakers except Purevdorj lost their re-election to the parliament.

DP leader Erdene was wiped out by little known candidate from Mongolian People's Party (Gankhuyag). Erdene ranked the 6th in Bayangol district trailing behind an independent lightweight (Galindev). At the hastily announced press conference, Erdene declared that he was stepping down from helm and named MP-elect Tuvaan as a transitional head to conduct leadership primaries before local elections in October 2020. At his press conference, Erdene admitted that he missed the opportunity to collaborate closely with President Battulga and failed to coordinate to the campaign effectively. He blamed the electoral system, which led MPP to seize 82% of parliamentary seats with less than 45% popular support. Erdene didn't say that he miscalculated with candidates by choosing unpopular, wearied (Bat-Uul, Da.Ganbold) and unfamiliar candidates (Byambasaikhan, Dolgion). The arrest of three DP candidates and corruption probes of several other candidates damaged DP's reputation among voters. Many strong candidates, who could have posed a serious challenge to the ruling party, were eliminated in primaries. Erdene's unpopular campaign financing by asking hundreds millions of MNT from would-be candidates didn't go well with DP supporters.

Thus, some broke away and run independently (Galindev, Altankhuyag). Others joined smaller party tickets (Delgermaa) wearing down DP base. The NEW party, which broke away from DP, ate away DP base voters too.

As a result, in some districts, DP candidates wound up at the 4th and 5th places after smaller parties and independents. During the campaign, the DP was portrayed as the last bastion of the corrupt outdated politicians (aka MANAN in Mongolian) and Erdene failed to fix that perception. Instead, he picked Amarjargal, who was a prime minister in 1990s, to be next premier if DP wins. It was a blunder and further solidified voter perception that Erdene was not up to the job to run the country and out of touch with voters. Although DP is the second biggest party with a large number of supporters the party fell short in energizing their base like what they did last time during the 2017 presidential elections. President Battulga, who is more friendly to Khurelsukh than Erdene, appeared to be keeping a distance from the DP campaign all the way. DP needs to take lesson from its missteps made during the parliamentary elections and should craft an effective strategy to do better in upcoming local elections and presidential elections in 2021.


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