ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia – Mongolia will hold its first runoff election for president next month after none of the candidates attained the necessary majority in Monday's voting.
Democratic Party candidate and former wrestler Khaltmaa Battulga was the top finisher, with 38 percent of the vote, and will face the Mongolian People's Party's Miyegombo Enkhbold in the July 9 election.
Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party candidate Sainkhuu Ganbaatar was eliminated by the narrowest of margins — 30.19 percent to Enkhbold's 30.3 percent — prompting some complaints about possible vote tampering.
Total turnout stood at 68.27 percent, the national election commission said Tuesday.
While the nation of 3 million had been an oasis of democratic stability, its politics have grown increasingly fractious amid an economic crisis and graft accusations.
A huge drop in foreign investment and decline in commodities prices have particularly strained the economy, a situation not helped by a long dispute with mining giant Rio Tinto over its operations in the country.
The winner next month will become Mongolia's fifth president since 1990 following the end of communism.
The outcome in the second round is uncertain because although the MPP and MPRP have a historical affiliation, voters appear to hold them responsible for the economic pain they are feeling, Citi Research said in an analysis.
That could mean that at least some MPRP voters break for Battulga, the report said. "Overall, we expect policy continuity," it said.
Along with a pending trade deal with China, one key issue will be a $500 million bond repayment due in January 2018, part of a $5.5 billion International Monetary Fund-led bailout to stem its financial crisis.
Enkhbold's party pledges to continue the IMF's program, including higher taxes and spending cuts, while Ganbaatar has criticized the IMF.
Battulga campaigned on a "Mongolia First" policy, borrowing the language of President Donald Trump. He promised to be "a patriotic president" seeking "equal cooperation" with neighbors like China, which he has criticized in the past.
Battulga is a former government minister and president of the Mongolian Judo Association. He also owns Genco, one of Mongolia's largest companies, whose businesses include hotels, media, banking, alcohol, horse meat and a Genghis Khan-themed complex.