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Mongolia - Government

Until 1990, the Mongolian Government was modeled on the Soviet system; only the communist party -- the MPRP -- officially was permitted to function. After some instability during the first 2 decades of communist rule in Mongolia, there was no significant popular unrest until December 1989. Collectivization of animal husbandry, introduction of agriculture, and the extension of fixed abodes were all carried out without perceptible popular opposition.

The birth of perestroika in the former Soviet Union and the democracy movement in Eastern Europe were mirrored in Mongolia. The dramatic shift toward reform started in early 1990 when the first organized opposition group, the Mongolian Democratic Union, appeared. In the face of extended street protests in subzero weather and popular demands for faster reform, the politburo of the MPRP resigned in March 1990. In May, the constitution was amended, deleting reference to the MPRP's role as the guiding force in the country, legalizing opposition parties, creating a standing legislative body, and establishing the office of president.

In November 1991, the People's Great Hural began discussion on a new constitution, which entered into force 12 February 1992. The new Mongolian governmental system consists of four branches: the State Di Hural (SIH - ih means great and hural means assembly) - also called the the State Great Hural (SGH); its executive body, the Government headed by the Prime Minister; the President; and the Constitutional Court. In addition to establishing Mongolia as an independent, sovereign republic and guaranteeing a number of rights and freedoms, the new constitution restructured the legislative branch of government, creating a unicameral legislature. The 1992 constitution provided that the president would be elected by popular vote rather than by the legislature as before.

As the supreme government organ, the SGH is empowered to enact and amend laws, determine domestic and foreign policy, ratify international agreements, and declare a state of emergency. The SGH meets semi-annually for 3-4 month sessions. SGH members elect a chairman and vice chairman who serve 4-year terms. SGH members have been popularly elected by district to 4-year terms. The SGH sits for the full 4 years until a subsequent parliamentary election and cannot be dissolved. In December 2011 the SGH adopted an election reform law to create 48 directly elected mandates in parliament and determine the remaining 28 seats via party lists.

Mongolia has a mixed Parliamentary-Presidential system of government. The President is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The Prime Minisiter, as head of government, sets policy, including defense policy. The civilian Minister of Defense reports to the Prime Minister. The President chairs the three-member National Security Council which is empowered to make defense and security decisions. However, all decisions must have the concurrence of the other two members of the council, the Prime Minister and the Speaker. The uniformed Chief of the General Staff reports to the President, as well as to the Minister of Defense.

Like Eastern European countries, Mongolia has chosen the strong parliament and weak presidential system intended to prevent the resurgence of totalitarian or authoritarian governments that existed previously in those countries. The president is the head of state, commander in chief of the armed forces, and head of the National Security Council. He is popularly elected by a national majority for a 4-year term and limited to two terms. Mongolia’s 1991 Constitution reserved only limited powers to the President — in principle, the power to veto — while giving most political power to the Great Hural, including the power to appoint government ministers.

In addition to the Constitution, particular laws define the President’s powers and responsibilities as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of Mongolia. “The Law on Defense” (1993) endows the President with the powers to monitor the implementation of the main policies regarding national defense and the use of the military in times of war and peace, to supervise the process of stockpiling necessary resources for national defense and propose required actions to be taken by the legislature if necessary, to adopt SOPs that regulate military affairs and the process of military promotion. The “Law on Armed Forces” (2002) provides the President with the right to adopt the organizational structure of the armed forces for both war and peace, to order partial or general mobilization, and appoint the Chairman of the General Staff of the Armed Forces.

There is a there persistent incorrect popular view that the National Security Council is a presidential institution, and that the President enjoys the prerogative of orchestrating the nation’s effort to ensure its security. In principle the presidency is less influential than the Prime Minister, though still a powerful position. Between September 1990 and June 2009, Mongolia had only three Presidents, two of whom were re-elected to a second term. During the same period, Monglia had a dozen Prime Ministers, two of whom were subesquently elected President. Despite the apparent weakness of the office, Mongolian politicians themselves clearly esteem the Presidency.

The constitution empowers the president to propose a prime minister, call for the government's dissolution in consultation with the SGH chairman, initiate legislation, veto all or parts of legislation (the SGH can override the veto with a two-thirds majority), and issue decrees, which become effective with the prime minister's signature. In the absence, incapacity, or resignation of the president, the SGH chairman exercises presidential power until inauguration of a newly elected president. The president may also declare a state of emergency if the SGH is in recess and cannot be summoned in a timely manner; the SGH may then, upon reconvening, revoke such a declaration of emergency within 7 days of its issuance.

The government, headed by the prime minister, has a 4-year term. The prime minister is nominated by the president and confirmed by the SGH. Under constitutional changes made in 2001, the president is required to nominate the prime ministerial candidate proposed by a party or coalition with a majority of members of the SGH. The prime minister chooses a cabinet, subject to SGH approval. Dissolution of the government occurs upon the prime minister's resignation, the simultaneous resignation of half the cabinet, or after an SGH vote for dissolution.

On 25 December 2015, parliament adopted a new electoral law, which retained the mixed system. However, on 21 April 2016, the Supreme Court invalidated the proportional representation element of the mixed electoral system: the court held that that element of the system did not comply with the constitutional requirement for elections to be direct. On 5 May, parliament adopted amendments to the 2015 electoral law with the support of the two major parties. The 2016 amendments introduced 76 single-member constituencies. One of the 2004-2008 Parliament's few accomplishments was the 2006 amendment of Mongolia's Minerals Law. The amendment shifted decision making for large-scale mining projects from the government to Parliament. Many observers concluded that it showed that the Mongolian political system vested too much control in the hands of a narrow range of political elites, especially the office of the president. However, these observers were mistaking Enkhbayar's formidable political skills as proof of his office's inherent powers. This might have been true about the office in 2000, but by 2004 the Mongolian presidency had been stripped of many powers observers assumed it had. While PM and an MP, Enkhbayar led Parliamentary efforts to remove the president's power to propose legislation and interfere in the day-to-day activities of Parliament, including the power to approve which party was to form the government. Further, the office required its incumbent to resign from his respective party and all leadership roles therein, effectively removing a base of support within the party from the incumbent.

Parliament left the office with a key voting seat on the National Security Council, veto power over legislation (with a two-thirds override possible), and a bully pulpit to issue policy pronouncements but little else. A divided Parliament and weak leadership within the MPRP allowed President Enkhbayar to gain more influence (as opposed to real power) than his position granted to him.

Mongolia is a unitary State with four levels of Government - one central and three local governments. The highest level of local government is the aimag and the capital city. Aimags are divided into soums, and the capital city into districts. Furthermore, soums are divided into bags and districts into khoroos. The capital city, aimags, soums and districts are both administrative and territorial units and have official boundaries. However, the lowest local government units, bags and khoroos are only administrative units and do not have official boundaries. Local hurals are elected by the 21 aimags (provinces) and by the nine districts of the capital, Ulaanbaatar. On the next lower administrative level, legislative bodies are elected by the provincial subdivisions (“soums”) and by the urban sub-districts (“khoroos”) of Ulaanbaatar’s nine districts.

At the end of 2007, Mongolia had 21 aimags with 331 soums and 1,538 bags; the capital city had 9 districts and 132 khoroos. The average size of an aimag is 70,000 km2. The average size of a soum is 4,400 km2 but some have less than 1,500 inhabitants. Soum administrative capacity is low, with virtually no economies of scale in service delivery. Regional development strategy is on the Government’s agenda, which discusses consolidating and reducing the number of local governments.

The 1992 constitution empowered a General Council of Courts (GCC) to select all judges and protect their rights. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial body. Supreme Court justices are nominated by the GCC and confirmed by the president; the SGH must be made aware of the nominations but cannot block them. The Supreme Court is constitutionally empowered to examine all lower court decisions upon appeal and provide official interpretations on all laws except the constitution.

Specialized civil and criminal courts exist at all levels and are subject to Supreme Court supervision. Administrative courts exist at the province and city levels only and are also subject to Supreme Court supervision. Local authorities--district and city governors--ensure that these courts abide by presidential decrees and SGH decisions. At the apex of the judicial system is the Constitutional Court, which consists of nine members, including a chairman, appointed for 6-year terms, whose jurisdiction extends solely over the interpretation of the constitution.

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