Democrats beat ruling party in Mongolian election

The opposition Democratic Party edged out Mongolia's ruling party in a tightly contested legislative election that centered on how best to use the wealth generated by the still poor but fast-developing country's mining boom.

It was not yet clear if the Democrats would win an outright majority in the 76-seat parliament. The party won 20 of the 48 seats awarded by outright majority in Thursday's vote, compared with 15 for the ruling Mongolian People's Party and fewer seats for two other parties, results released Friday by the General Election Commission showed.

Under a new system, the remaining 28 seats are awarded based on the parties' proportion of the overall vote, giving the Democrats a commanding but not a decisive edge in the new parliament. A coalition government between the major parties or with smaller parties would likely perpetuate slow policy-making and partisan bickering that has characterized Mongolia's fledgling democracy.

The Democrats and MPP each campaigned on promises that they would use revenues generated by mining mammoth, estimated trillion-dollar reserves of coal, copper and gold to create jobs and narrow a rich-poor gap in the large but landlocked country between China and Russia. The Democrats characterized the MPP as captives of the rich and foreign mining interests.

Along the way, a still popular ex-president split from the ruling party only to be arrested on corruption charges. Still, Enkhbayar Nambar's splinter party in league with another minor party took third place, potentially making him a factor in forming the new government.

None of the parties immediately contested the vote results, possibly avoiding a repeat of the post-election violence four years ago that left four people dead in the capital, Ulan Bator. Angry supporters of the Democrats took to the streets after the party alleged voting irregularities in a loss to the MPP.

To avoid such problems, the government introduced the mixed system of awarding seats by majority vote and by proportion. It also imported electronic voting machines, though the parties also wanted votes counted by hand.

The announcement of results was delayed earlier Friday after the MPP asked for a recount in some districts due to discrepancies between votes tallied by machine and by hand.

Mindful of the violence in 2008, ruling party politicians struck a measured tone in doing so, saying they would abide by the law, even as they asked for the recount.

"The election should run according to laws. The party election committee has complaints regarding vote counting and we are addressing the issues," said Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold, the ruling party chairman.