Sat, Jul 03, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Opposition protest Mongolian poll

AIR TIME The Motherland Democratic Coalition took over state television briefly on Thursday and demanded on air that the disputed election results be recognized


Hundreds of supporters of Mongolia's opposition democratic alliance rallied in the capital Ulan Bator yesterday, waving flags and chanting slogans claiming to have won last week's election.

"We thank the nation for making a new choice," one banner read as youngsters, workers, middle-aged couples and children gathered in front of Democratic Party headquarters.

But Sunday's elections were too close to call in the vast, wind-swept nation of grasslands and nomadic herders, hours after opposition activists briefly took over state television claiming a poll victory.

The ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) had 36 confirmed seats in the 76-seat parliament and the opposition Motherland Democratic Coalition (MDC) had 34, an election official said.

The Democrats claim victory with the support of three independents, but two of the coalition-held constituencies will hold run-off elections at three polling stations today after complaints of irregularities -- meaning either side could win.

"We have had 150 requests to investigate potential violations of election laws," election official Oyuumaa said, adding there was not enough time to check them all. "Right now there is no way we can predict what the result will be."

The MDC said it would challenge any new votes.

"If the re-votes take place, the opposition will take the decision to the constitutional court because there are no legal reasons for the re-vote to take place," MP Oyun said.

"I think the longer it takes [to produce a final election result], the more there is a possibility of a political crisis and negative consequences," she said.

The MDC, angry about being denied air time, took over state television briefly on Thursday and demanded on air that the election results be recognized.

After the broadcast was over, democratic leaders came out of the building and urged the hundreds of supporters, demonstrating peacefully outside, to go home, a witness said. The crowd dispersed without incident.

"I am not ruling out that this is the beginning of a very protracted and long constitutional and government crisis," a senior MPRP official said yesterday.

He said there had been "altercations" with police when the crowd, which he put at about 400 people, stormed the TV building, roughed up the director of national television and held him until the MDC was given air time.

The MPRP held 72 of parliament's 76 seats before Sunday's poll and had been confident of victory in the sparsely populated country, landlocked between Russia and China, before the opposition's surprise showing.

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