Mongolia Looks Into New Parliamentary System
Mongolia’s Parliament has initiated public consultations to amend the country’s constitution and adopt a parliamentary system of governance. Lawmakers are campaigning about the need to update the constitution and strengthen democracy while touting the virtues of the Westminster system. If the amendment is ratified, the president would be stripped of much of his power.
A new parliamentary system could help improve governance, ensure regulatory stability and promote more accountability, transparency and participation in major economic decision-making.
This should make it easier for businesses operating in Mongolia and contribute more to broader economic growth. If accepted, the proposed changes would end the long-standing debate on whether Mongolia should have a presidential or parliamentary system of governance.
What You Need To Know:
The current semi-presidential system in Mongolia has provided opportunities for the president to check and balance the prime minister and Cabinet. Under this arrangement of cohabitation, a publicly elected president serves alongside a powerful prime minister.
Mongolia’s governance has been plagued with friction and stalemates lately. This was most recently evidenced during a showdown between then-President Khaltmaagiin Battulga and then-Prime Minister Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh from 2020-2021.
Public opinion over the last decade has favored a stronger leader in the form of a president. With one-party domination since 2016, the argument has now shifted toward modernizing governance and rebalancing political power to stabilize the economy in view of Mongolia's current financial and geopolitical hardships.
The most recent constitutional amendments in 2019 transferred some powers from the president to the prime minister. The ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) aims to reduce the president to a ceremonial figurehead, bolster parliamentary governance and elevate the prime minister, who is also a party head. Under this scenario, Parliament would elect the president, as is the case in some other countries, including Germany.
President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh has not revealed his thoughts about the new proposals to change the constitution, but he is a known supporter of parliamentary democracy. His one-time term ends in 2026, so new constitutional reforms will likely not affect him.
The MPP hopes to push for constitutional changes before the country’s parliamentary elections in June 2024.
The remainder of 2022 and early 2023 are expected to be crucial to consult and educate the public about the benefits of the Westminster system. Constitutional referendums are not being considered given the MPP’s supermajority control of Parliament.
Lawmakers are considering enlarging Parliament to bolster governance. The latest thinking is to double the current number of members from 76 to 152 to reflect population growth since 1992. Half of the expanded Parliament would be elected on a proportional basis and the other by the winner-take-all method.
Reintroducing a proportional representation mixed electoral system, which failed to get support in 2019, is now gaining more traction. The opposition and smaller political parties hope this would help them win seats in Parliament and encourage more political diversity.
The prime minister wants to increase the current cap on the number of lawmakers who can enter his Cabinet. Two Cabinet portfolios are vacant, and non-parliamentarian ministers are perceived to be weak when challenged in the parliamentary sessions.
A rule prohibiting constitutional changes before 2027 remains a significant obstacle to adopting parliamentary governance. The MPP aims to change that rule during public consultations.
Not everyone in Mongolia supports constitutional changes. Some critics strongly oppose reintroducing the proportional voting system. They allege that corrupt politicians can be hidden within party lists, therefore diminishing voters’ say.
Several political elders have appealed to the Constitutional Court and accused Parliament of conducting an unconstitutional public discussion. They have argued that basic rules should not be easily or frequently changed.
The main opposition Democratic Party said the government should prioritize economic problems over constitutional changes and has accused the government of wasting time.
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