Mon, Jun 28, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Mongolians vote on parliament

TURNOUT Participation was high as Mongolians chose between a ruling party whose performance is open to debate and a host of opposition parties

REUTERS , ULAN BATOR

Former wrestling champion Nyamgav, 90 years old, votes yesterday in parliamentary elections in Ulan Bator.

PHOTO: EPA

Mongolians took to their horses, camels and four-wheel drives across the grasslands in huge numbers to vote in yesterday's elections, which the ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) is expected to win.

Many wore traditional dress, stepping out from their round white tent gers for the long journey to the nearest voting booth. Election officials visited some of the most remote gers to take the vote to old people and others unable to make the trip.

"The turnout appears to be more than active than four years ago," said election official Ishtod.

"This is probably because there has been only one party in power and people want to have both sides in parliament," Ishtod said.

The MPRP, which ruled Mongolia for much of the 20th century as a Soviet satellite state, is likely to be returned to power after presiding over four years of economic stability in one of the world's poorest and most sparsely populated countries.

Election officials spoke of mood swings and said it was too early to say by how much of a margin the MPRP would win.

The MPRP, followers of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party, has 72 seats in the 76-member Great Hural, or parliament, and could lose a handful to a divided opposition under the umbrella Motherland Democratic Coalition.

One old woman, Doktor, voting in one of Ulan Bator's poorest suburbs, said her wish was for a more balanced parliament.

"I want many parties to get 10 seats each," she said.

"I don't want anyone to be left out," she said.

The MPRP has renominated 44 of its current members of parliament, while all four opposition lawmakers running again.

The MDC comprises the Mongolian Democratic Party, the Mongolian New Democratic Socialist Party and the Civil Courage-Republican Party.

A third group -- closely cooperating but without a formal coalition -- put up a total of 77 candidates from the Green Party, the Republican Party, the Mongolian National United Party, the Mongolian Liberal Party and the Mongolian Traditional United Party. There are 15 independent candidates.

"I really don't know what to expect from these elections," said Demberel, 43, sitting astride his horse in a long-sleeved, high-collared tunic with silver buttons and a yellow, silk sash.

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