Mongolian Prime Minister Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh on Thursday resigned following a protest over a hospital’s treatment of a new mother who tested positive for COVID-19.
Khurelsukh, whose Mongolian People’s Party holds a strong majority in the parliament known as the State Great Khural, stepped down after accusing Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga of the Democratic Party of orchestrating a political crisis.
A small protest broke out in the capital, Ulan Bator, on Wednesday after TV footage appeared of a woman who had just given birth being escorted in slippers and a thin robe from the maternity ward to a special wing for COVID-19 patients while holding her newborn.
The incident comes against the background of the long-running political rivalry between Khurelsukh and Battulga.
Khurelsukh is considered a likely presidential candidate to run against Battulga in elections to be held in June, but faces competition within his own party from wealthy businessman and former Mongolian prime minister Batbold Sukhbaatar.
“President Battulga politicized and funded the people’s demonstration, and lost my trust. I made this decision to prevent riot and disorder, which might be caused by misuse of people’s trust and instigation,” Khurelsukh said in a statement to parliament. “As chairman of the ruling party, I believe the president should be held accountable. I want to say, furthermore, that a person who should protect the interests of the Mongolian people should not repeat such improper actions.”
In his own address to parliament, Battulga expressed surprise at Khurelsukh’s resignation and accused monied interests within the ruling party of pushing him out to stymie investigations into alleged corruption in the mining industry.
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