Mongolia Considers Major Political Reforms
The 2022 spring legislative session kicked off with Parliamentary Speaker Zandanshatar calling lawmakers to focus on domestic matters and avoiding taking sides in the Ukraine-Russian conflict.
In particular, Zandanshatar called lawmakers to increase the strength and size of the parliament accounting for the population increase since 1992. Legislative Affairs Standing Committee Chair and MP Byambatsogt views the number of lawmakers should be at least 120 to fix the under-representation of voters in the parliament.
Making parliament larger opens a can of worm issues. The most recent attempt to add a parliament seat number failed during the 2019 constitutional reform debate mainly because of concerns of growing public spending on officeholders.
Also, with an increased number of lawmakers, there will be demands to change the current winner-takes-all UK-type electoral system to the German-style proportional representation.
Mongolia tried mixed proportional representation elections in the 2012 elections but it was abandoned in 2015. The rule was criticized for creating political instability and producing no clear winner while giving too much power to party bosses. However, the mood seems to have changed and people are warming to the idea of lawmakers focusing on big-picture and long-term national priorities rather than constituency-specific matters.
In practice, the current winner-take-all system benefited the ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) to grab supermajority control of the parliament in the 2016 and 2020 elections without enjoying majority popular support (~40%).
The MPP strategists will likely review which election rule helps them to get an upper hand in 2024 and will most likely push changes in the election law next year.
On the other hand, the opposition and smaller parties want a re-introduction of proportional representation which is believed to help smaller parties in the elections.
Another sensitive issue associated with changing parliament size is whether the president should be directly elected by voters or by lawmakers. The parliament-selected president would lessen political frictions at the top, so the argument goes. Mongolia changed the constitution last time in 2019 and limited president to one-time 5-year term term.
But the most pressing and immediate issue for Speaker Zandanshatar and Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene appears to be how to ensure long-term and sustainable political buy-in from diverse factions in the parliament.
Under the 2019 constitutional changes, only four lawmakers can serve in the cabinet. This has been a major pushback by MPP lawmakers who demand revoking the constitutional limit.
Although the prime minister has full power to hire and fire the cabinet ministers he is yet to appoint two new ministers responsible for economic development and digital & communications development.