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Battulga Khaltmaa

Battulga Khaltmaa Battulga Khaltmaa became the fifth President of Mongolia on July 10, 2017. Before this, President Battulga served for almost two decades as a Member of Parliament in the State Great Khural and held cabinet positions as the Minister of Roads, Transportation, Construction and Urban Development and later as the Minister of Industry and Agriculture. He was one of the leaders of the Democratic Union Coalition, which later became the foundation of the modern day Democratic Party of Mongolia. The Democratic Union Coalition was instrumental in ushering a peaceful democratic transition to a multi-party democratic system in Mongolia after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990.

Battulga won the presidency partly by coming across as a strong Mongolian male with a no-nonsense attitude, with many Mongolians still having an affinity for male figures who embody the warrior spirit of Genghis Khan, whom Battulga very much reveres. Battulga Khaltmaa was born 03 March 1963 His father was a coach of Mongolian traditional wrestling and thus Battulga grew up wrestling. Raised in a tough neighborhood on the capital’s outskirts, Battulga Khaltmaa distinguished himself in the 1980s as a competitor in sambo, a martial art favored by the Soviet Red Army. He became world sambo champion in 1983. Competing abroad gave him opportunities to import luxuries such as denim and VHS cassettes, and when the Iron Curtain fell he parlayed that experience into a thriving business called Genco, after Vito Corleone’s olive oil front company in The Godfather. Battulga’s enterprises gradually grew to include a hotel, a meat plant, a fleet of taxis, and a tour agency, all in Ulaanbaatar. Battulga was elected to parliament in 2004 and became minister for transportation and construction four years later. Commodity prices collapsed in 2014, and the tugrik plunged, making the imports to which people had grown accustomed unaffordable. Construction jobs, the livelihood for thousands of rural migrants to the capital, disappeared.

In2017 he ran for president. Battulga portrayed himself as an outsider and an aspirational example, packaging his governing program in the MAGA-esque slogan “Mongolia Will Win.” Thanks largely to support from the poor, he surprised pollsters by finishing ahead of his main rival in the first-round vote and winning the runoff comfortably.

Although Mongolians benefited from capitalist development — gross domestic product per head had risen tenfold since 1994 — opinion polls indicated that many were deeply frustrated, believing their country’s mineral wealth has been stolen by outsiders. This sentiment fueled an explosion of anti-establishment anger that brought Battulga, a populist businessman, to power in 2017. Under him, Mongolia’s trajectory shifted, as he cozied up to Vladimir Putin. In early 2019 he sparked a political crisis by getting legislation passed that gave him the power to fire judges and top law enforcement figures. He promptly removed a range of judicial officials in a move he called necessary to fight corruption and preserve the long-term health of the country’s democracy.

President Battulga Khaltmaa was dealt major setback on 16 April 2021 when the Constitutional Court ruled that incumbents and former presidents cannot run for re-election. Constitutional amendments were made in 2019 to strengthen Mongolia’s parliamentary rule. These amendments stripped away many of the presidential powers such as the president’s power to suspend judges and also limited the presidency to a single term for six years. Crucially, the amendments were only supposed to take effect in 2025, but the parliament, in which the MPP has a super-majority, later decided that they would apply immediately and retroactively.

On 22 April 2021 President Battulga Khaltmaa issued an emergency directive to disband the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP), "in order to safeguard the sovereignty and democracy of the country. The action came after the MPP gave itself unconstitutional authority to change election rules for the June 9 presidential election that would exclude President Battulga from the ballot". In his announcement, President Battulga said the “MPP threatens the country's democratic foundations by creating a parallel military structure alongside its party. This endangers the fundamental rights and interests of our citizens and constitution. The law explicitly states that any political party that takes any militarized form shall be disbanded.” Unfortunately for Battulga, his presidential authority did not actually extend to dissolving any political party.

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Page last modified: 19-07-2021 18:26:16 ZULU