Ukhnaa Khurelsukh became the country’s sixth democratically elected president, further consolidating the power of the ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP). Khurelsukh, who was forced to resign as prime minister after protests earlier this year, had an insurmountable lead over Sodnomzundui Erdene of the opposition Democratic Party. Khurelsukh’s victory follows a low-key campaign amid COVID-19 restrictions. Most outdoor events were cancelled after the outsider candidate Dangaasuren Enkhbat of the National Labor Party tested positive for the coronavirus.
Ukhnaa Khurelsukh of the Mongolian People’s Party, which held a strong majority in parliament, was seen as the frontrunner. But his candidacy prompted concerns about a possible strengthening of the military’s involvement in public affairs due to his background with the armed forces.
The presidency is a largely ceremonial position, although it does include powers over the military and the right to veto legislation in some cases. Power is mainly vested in the parliament, the cabinet and the office of the prime minister. Mongolia’s hybrid political system gives its elected parliament the right to appoint governments and decide policy, but the president has the power to veto legislation and hire and fire judges. With the presidency often controlled by the opposition party, the division of power has created a political deadlock that some believe has held back Mongolia’s development.
Khurelsukh had cultivated a macho persona, complete with photos of him posing shirtless with a hunting gun - similar to the famous images of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. He also got the nickname "Fist" after a video of him punching a member of parliament went viral in 2012. Khurelsukh resigned as prime minister in January 2021 following protests and public outrage over the treatment of a coronavirus patient and her newborn baby. Khurelsukh had since tried to clean up his image, and this is the first presidential win in 12 years for his Mongolian People's Party.
For the first part of Battulga Khaltmaa’s term as President, prime minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa tended to occupy center stage. The prime minister runs day-to-day parliamentary business, while the president handles foreign affairs, oversees judicial appointments, and introduces legislation. The two men were from opposing parties, but that didn’t prevent them from co-operating. Mongolia’s main factions aren’t really split on ideological lines, and Battulga drew much of his parliamentary support from Khurelsukh’s party.
Prime Minister Ukhnaa Khurelsukh resigned 21 January 2021 following protests and public outrage over the treatment of a coronavirus patient and her newborn baby. Anger mounted after TV footage showed a woman who appeared to have recently given birth being moved to an infectious disease centre wearing only hospital pyjamas and plastic slippers, despite temperatures dipping to minus 25 degrees Celsius. After protests outside government buildings, the Mongolian politician apologised on behalf of the government and said he would stand down immediately. Mongolian tradition dictates new mothers should avoid the cold weather and cold food for the first month after birth. The vice prime minister -- also head of the national emergency commission handling the pandemic -- had already resigned, followed by the minister of health. The head of the hospital and disease center in the middle of the row also resigned. Conveniently for Khurelsukh, his resignation meant he cleared the way for a run at the presidency.
Former Prime Minister, and current MPP Chairman, Khurelsukh Ukhnaa, created a parallel military structure alongside the Party called the “Mongolian Military Union” and has arranged for the organization to have a branch at each Military Staff of local administrations leading to growing concerns the Party is at risk of and preparing to execute military actions.
Bold Luvsanvandan, former Minister of Defense and current Advisor to the President on National Security, made the following statement in April 2021: “MPP’s parallel militarized structure headed by MPP Chairman Khurelsukh Ukhnaa is a blatant violation of Mongolia’s Constitution. The military union should be immediately disbanded and banned. Not only will it undermine the civilian oversight over the Mongolian military, but will lead to the creation of quasi-fascist regime.”
A former army man who’s fond of a military parade, 52-year-old Khurelsukh had not been slow to attack Battulga in sharpening his own chances in becoming his successor, should he confirm a run. “[Battulga] destroyed the DP, he just tried to destroy the People's Government, and in the future, he would destroy Mongolia itself,” asserted Khurelsukh.
Ukhnaa Khurelsukh was born in Ulan Bator in June 1968. He graduated from the Defense University of Mongolia in 1989, majoring in political science. Subsequently, he studied public administration at the Institute of State Administration and management development and law at the National University of Mongolia. He was a parliamentary member three times and was general secretary of the Mongolian People's Party. He was deputy prime minister twice between 2014 and 2017, and became prime minister in October 2017. He is married and has two daughters.
- 1989-1990 Political officer in the 152nd military unit
- 1991-1994 Political official in the Central Committee of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP)
- 1994-1996 Advisor in the MPRP working group in Parliament
- 1996-1997 Director of ‘Development of Young People’ center of the MPRP
- 1997-1999 President of Social Democratic Youth Union
- 1999-2000 Social Policy Advisor in the MPRP working group in Parliament
- 2000-2005 President of Social Democratic Youth Union
- 2000-2007 Member of the MPRP Administrative Board
- 2000-2008 Member of Parliament
- 2004-2006 Member of Cabinet and Minister for Emergency Situation
- 2006-2008 Member of Cabinet and Minister of Specialized Inspection
- 2007 President of Mongolian Left Wing Federation
- 2008-2012 Secretary-General of Mongolian People’s Party (MPP)
- 2012-2013 Member of Parliament
- 2014-2015 Deputy Prime Minister
- 2016-2017 Deputy Prime Minister.
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