Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Violent Protests Follow Mongolian Election

What had been a relatively peaceful election process in Mongolia has now shown some signs of violence. In mid-afternoon, roughly 6,000 protesters, mostly young males from the Mongolian Democratic Party, alleging voter fraud, clashed with police outside the headquarters of the General Election Commission and the MPRP. Protesters threw stones at the buildings and at the police in riot gear. Some also pushed into the election offices and demanded the resignation of officials. Finally, protesters set fire to the MPRP headquarters and three nearby cars. They also entered a duty-free shop and began throwing bottles at the fire. When fire fighters tried to reach the scene, the demonstrators turned their rock-throwing activities toward the firetrucks. Firefighters managed to control the fire, but protesters continued to clash with the military and police, who retaliated with rocks, water cannons, rubber bullets and teargas. Several protesters sported bloody faces, but the riots were still in progress as night fell.

The protests originally centered around two districts of the capital won by the MPRP but contested by the Civic Movement Party. Later, though, the DP joined the demonstrations, questioning the entire outcome of the election. The latest results suggest that the MPRP has garnered 46 of the seats in the State Great Khural, the DP 26, an independent and a minor party each 1, with 2 seats still undetermined. No official results have been announced, and election commission officials have declared that claims being made by the MPRP are premature.

The leader of the DP, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, also announced that he would not accept the projected outcome: "We do not need these results. No one needs these kinds of results, and they will be corrected in accordance with the law." Allegations center around suggestions that the MPRP controlled polling stations by appointing party members as directors. The DP plans to present details of election fraud, which may further delay the announcement of official results.

President Enkhbayar has called for investigation into the allegations of voter fraud but has denounced the use of illegal actions in expressing protest. The President and the Prime Minister plan to meet with the leaders of the dissenting groups.

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