Tue, Jun 29, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Opposition claims victory in Mongolian poll upset

REUTERS , ULAN BATOR

Mongolia's liberal opposition supporters celebrate outside party headquarters yesterday in Ulan Bator. The opposition Democratic and Patriotic Coalition looked headed for an upset victory over the ruling ex-communists in Sunday's elections.

PHOTO: AFP

Mongolia's opposition democrats claimed what would be a stunning victory yesterday in parliamentary elections disputed by Prime Min-ister Nambaryn Enkhbayar who accused his rivals of widespread vote-rigging.

The prime minister's Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) and Motherland Democratic Coalition (MDC) each won 36 seats in the Great Hural, or parliament, election committee officials said citing the first official preliminary result.

If officially confirmed by the election committee, the result would be a dramatic reversal for the MPRP, which had 72 seats in the 76-seat parliament before Sunday's polls and had been confident of an overwhelming victory.

The democratic coalition claimed victory by including three seats among their independent allies, which would mark a comeback for the democrats who were swept from power by the MPRP four years ago.

"The preliminary result is that the MPRP has 36 seats, the MDC has 36 seats, independents have three seats and the Mongolian Republican Party has one seat," said committee chairman Yadamsuren.

He said an official announcement was likely today after the commission verified results phoned in from 12 far-flung constituencies in a country where half the 2.7 million people are nomads and many voters travelled to polls by horseback or camel.

The MPRP, which ruled Mongolia for much of the 20th century as a one-party Soviet satellite, had been widely expected to skate to an easy victory after four years of economic stability in the impoverished country.

Now, Enkhbayar faces being ousted, though not without a fight.

"He [Enkhbayar] said there was a certain amount of irregularities in certain constituencies," said Tjalling Halbertsma, an adviser to the party chairman, citing the movement of people to vote outside their constituencies.

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