The elections will test the public satisfaction with the government as well as Prime Minister Khurelsukh's rating before he decides whether to run for the presidency in 2021.
The leading opposition parties (DP, MPRP, NEW party) announced their coalition candidates for the local elections in October. The DP will be the senior partner in the coalition taking up around 80% of nominations. Their combined popular vote share in the June parliamentary elections wasaround 38% compared to 45% of the ruling MPP. Theemerging anti-MPP coalitionis cheered by President Battulga.
They are using the narrative that the unrestrained MPP government should be checked and balanced by the opposition at the local level. The opposition is promising free public transports in UB and reopening the economy and lift the pandemic restrictions.
Compared to the legislative election local elections don't attract much attention. Voter turnout is usually low as authorities don't require a minimum threshold for the election to be valid. Additionally, there is no restriction for running for multiple council seats at the same time.
15,000+ candidates ran in 2016 for around 7,000 council member seats in different administrative units (UB's 9 districts, 120+ sub-districts, 21 aimags, 330 soums, 1568 bags). Each administrative units usually report to its higher ranking governors but power can be divided if the opposition wins.
The main battlegrounds for the local elections will likely be in the swing provinces (e.g. Bayan-Ulgii, Zavkhan, Khovd, Govi-Sumber, Umnogovi and Tuv), some of which have significant mining activities. The Ulaanbaatar elections are expected to be the most competitive contest as the winner will nominate the next city mayor.
In provinces, it is a mixed bag and no guarantee that MPP would repeat their June landslide win.
For example, Umnogovi (the largest commodity exporter) voters switched from the DP to MPP in 2016. It is not clear the ruling party, which commands 20 seats out of 30 in the provincial council, can keep control next month.
Umnogovi's governor Naranbaatar (MPP) was elected to the national parliament this June. The second parliamentary seat went to Bat-Erdene (DP).
In Khanbogd soum, where Rio Tinto's copper-gold Oyu Tolgoi mine is located, voters are split between MPP and DP.
The election campaign period is 15 days and the less familiar candidates won't likely have that much chance to garner many votes. In view of no local COVID transmission, there's no talk of the election delay. Politicians and people have also stopped following distancing and mask-wearing.
For the opposition and the DP, October elections are a chance to come back as voters have become frustrated about increased road traffic and overall economic downturn. For MPP, it is a test of whether the party will continue to govern nationally and regionally.
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