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Political Issues - 1984-1990

The political leadership style of Batmonh can be described as cautious and pragmatic, and it explains in part why the senior leadership levels in the party have escaped major shake-ups. Under his leadership, the political program has focused on bringing greater productivity, efficiency, and material prosperity to society. Implementing this program, however, has raised certain key political issues of central concern to Batmonh and other top party leaders. One issue has been the performance of the party and government bureaucracies. The official bureaucracy has come under attack for apathy to reform measures and for displays of resistance to their implementation. Another major criticism, often related to those just cited, was that some party and government leaders were considered either unqualified or too inept to understand and to carry out reform programs.

In attempts to address this issue, party pronouncements have stressed the participation and the accountability of officials at all levels of the bureaucracy. This has been accomplished in some measure at the provincial level by increasing participation of aymag first secretaries on the party Central Committee. Having them serve on this national body included them in the policy debate and made them responsible for, and accountable for, the effective implementation of policies and programs. In 1986 the Central Committee included fourteen of the eighteen first secretaries, as either full or candidate members. Two of the unrepresented aymags actually were represented indirectly by having representatives on the Central Committee who had been elected from the autonomous cities, Darhan and Erdenet, located within those aymags. Two decades earlier, only a few aymag first secretaries served on the party Central Committee.

In 1989 the change that linked aymag leaders to the national- level leadership probably did not indicate a major decentralization of political power in Mongolia. Official policy still followed precedents set in the Soviet Union that were transmitted by the central party structure. Instead, these "decentralizing" measures appeared to be inspired more by a recognition of the nature of past economic stagnation and failure. They were designed to provide aymag party leaders with a substantial political stake in the regime in order to win their much needed enthusiasm and commitment to the new reformist goals.

Creative approaches and bold thinking were qualities that the regime espoused to energize its often-complacent bureaucracy. At the Nineteenth Congress in 1986, Batmonh echoed the reformist thrust of Mikhail Gorbachev's speech to the preceding Twentyseventh Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Batmonh stressed that party members needed to "think and work in new ways." He identified as the "chief political result of the supreme forum of Mongolian Communists" (that is, the party congress) the recognition that more attention had to be paid to party ideological and organizational work and "to strengthening inner-party democracy." Batmonh raised similar themes in his key December 1988 plenary session speech. In discussing ideological work within the party bureaucracy, he identified the main task as being "to foster in people a scientific world outlook and further raise their social consciousness."

Developing a program of "renewal and rejuvenation" has precipitated as an issue the question of what should constitute the official view of Mongolian history. Who were the heroes, and who obstructed progress? By late 1988, Tsedenbal, for the first time, was identified with the regime's economic failures because economic stagnation and official dogmatism that stifled growth and creativity flourished during his tenure. The charges leveled against Tsedenbal during this revision of modern Mongolian history also appeared to extend into the emotional area of the fate and the status of indigenous Mongolian cultural institutions and heritage.

Calling for a "realistic appraisal" of Tsedenbal's career, Batmonh said "we draw serious conclusions on the acts of destroying historical and cultural monuments, monasteries and temples. But that bitter lesson was not duly considered, and even today a careless attitude to national culture persists." Filling in what have been called "blank spots" in Mongolian history appeared in mid-1989 to extend even to the historical treatment of Chinggis Khan and perhaps can be viewed as one important barometer of political change in Mongolia. Traditionally, the Soviet press has described Chinggis as a "feudal and backward element." By early 1989, the Mongolian press had adopted a more positive view of this historic national figure, a change suggesting that, politically, the Mongolian leadership has begun to move somewhat out from under Soviet political tutelage.

In late 1989, Mongolia saw its own Democratic Revolution that led to a multi-party system and the transition to a market economy. The collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and its Eastern Europe Alliance led to a peaceful democratic revolution in Mongolia in 1990, and political transition toward a multiparty democracy began. The political transition opened a door to free and fair elections, independent courts, freedom of speech and other values of democracy. This allowed Mongolia to begin engaging in economic and diplomatic relations with the Western world. The nation completed its transition from a communist state to a multi-party democracy with the ratification of a new Constitution in 1992. Transition to democracy began in 1990 and contested elections for the Great Khural (Mongolian Parliament) have been held in 1990, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008.

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Page last modified: 01-07-2012 18:54:00 ZULU