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  • Writer's pictureAmar Adiya

Khurelsukh considers the top job in Mongolia

President Battulga and Prime Minister Khurelsukh

The presidential election is 10 months away but there is increasing speculation that Prime Minister of Mongolia Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh could enter the race. Although he holds the top executive position and the new constitution expanded prime minister's powers Khurelsukh maybe more interested in presidency.

President directly elected by voters continues to be a no.1 job in Mongolia wielding far more power through various channels across the country.

If Khurelsukh runs against President Khaltmaagiin Battulga it is possible to unsettle a stable political environment that has continued over the past three years.

The cohabitation of Khurelsukh and President Battulga has played well preventing any major stalemate in decision-making at the top, which has been rare in Mongolia's rowdy democracy.

Following MPP's landslide win in June, President Battulga has probably also started to see Khurelsukh as a main challenger in 2021. This could lead to friction between the two and disturb the fragile power balance in Mongolia.

According to MEC's latest survey, Prime Minister Khurelsukh is the most popular politician. He overtook Battulga as the leading politician last December thanks to his tough measures on reducing air pollution in Ulaanbaatar city. Then in March his rating soared following early COVID-19 response and timely social handouts.

Since the election, Khurelsukh has not been seen much in the public. In July and August, public criticism has grown around poor handling of repatriation of Mongolians and the appointment of tainted politicians (namely Deputy PM Sodbaatar) involved in the SME corruption scandal. There has been also recent media scrutiny on his penchant for dressing in military uniforms and giving military salute. All this briefly weighed on his reputation during the summer months.

Khurelsukh still commands higher popularity than Battulga. And other Mongolian People's Party (MPP) leaders have not ranked anything close.

Ex-justice minister Nyamdorj has not recovered after his election defeat in June. The ratings of Parliament Speaker Zandanshatar and Cabinet Secretary Oyun-Erdene (not eligible to run since he's under 50) have plummeted too. All other MPP leaders over 50 years age are either unpopular or have been sidelined out of power.

Meanwhile, Battulga's eligibility to re-run still remains an open question as to the new constitution limits to one-time presidential term. MPP lawmakers are expected to pass the new law regulating presidential elections and candidate criteria at the end of this year.


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