P.Tsagaan: The 1990 election was a whole new aspect to Mongolian government


Mongolia is celebrating the 25 year anniversary of its first democratic, free election on July 29. News.mn talked with Chief of Staff of the President of Mongolia P.Tsagaan about the importance of this anniversary, and the events held to mark the historic occasion.

We’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first democratic, free election in Mongolia on July 29. Where does the date’s value and meaning stand?

The democratic revolution of 1990, in the Year of the White Horse, is a matter of great importance to the history of Mongolia’s modern government. The significance is growing larger as time goes by. All 365 days of 1990 were full of meaningful historical events. One of the most glorious, most important peaks of those events was the free election held on July 29.

Why we give importance to this date holds a very deep meaning. Of course Mongolia had a government before 1990. We had laws. Elections were held. But elections were held in a different way. We only nominated one person from the People’s Assembly in an electoral district. Everyone was supposed to give their votes to him. People who didn’t vote in the election were held responsible with work, basically like in a political drama. In other words, socialist countries held these kinds of elections. where there were no choices.

The election in July of 1990 in Mongolia marked the first time that more than one person was nominated in one electoral district, and the first time that many political parties participated in it. Also, it was the first time individuals nominated themselves and participated independently. For the first time ever, people voted for who they supported among many other candidates. This was a whole new election system than the previous socialist ones: one that never existed in Mongolian history, one that fit global democratic standards.

This marked a deeply significant event where Mongolian citizens chose and created their own government with the people they trusted, using their own minds and intuition, without the advice of someone else. This gave the public the responsibility to make choices on its own. This election is also unique as it was organized in two steps, on July 22 and 29 of 1990. We could call it a historic event, a whole new phenomenon in modern Mongolian government history. Elections are responsible for stabilizing the government. After this first election, there were six presidential elections and six parliamentary elections. During this period, the election system and its organization have become more complex and improved.


What were the special features of this free democratic election?

This first free election was full of many new, interesting events, such as choosing candidates. I have to emphasize that this event captured people’s attention, and the voters were very active too. At that time, 98 percent of every registered elector voted.

Is it true that organizations and citizens met to nominate candidates?

Yes, it’s true. Nowadays, individuals or political party members can nominate candidates. But in the 1990s, citizens in the electoral districts, industries, organizations, and their counterparts, as well as city councils and soldiers’ assemblies, had the right to meet separately or together to nominate a person. Citizens were given the right to submit their names at these assemblies, like individuals today. Voters could meet up and nominate a person as well.

Was there a certain number of candidates allowed? How was a person nominated?

Yes. In the capital, in districts, and rural cities 150 candidates were allowed. In soums and micro districts, no more than 50 had the right to meet and be nominated. Out of all these meetings and assemblies, 2,413 people were nominated in the election of 1990.

You said the election was held in two stages. What happened on July 22 and 29?

On Sunday, July 22, 1990, electoral districts that had three or more nominations conducted a poll. The two people who got the most votes stayed in the election. The second stage poll, or the real election, was held on Sunday, July 29. Out of 430 electoral districts of the People’s Assembly, 426 had its elections, and four were held back. At the time of this election, political party polls were conducted. Sixty percent of the people voted for the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party and 40 percent voted for the Democratic Party. Eighty-seven percent of all the deputies were newly elected people. It’s also unique because 53 percent were individuals without party affiliation. Deputies are the members of the People’s Assembly.

As the result of this new democratic election, the Mongolian government and parliament started fresh and today’s institutions were formed, correct?

Yes. Transitional institutions were founded as well. I mentioned that in that election, people not only chose who to support but also which party to support. We formed the first State Baga Khural based on the votes and ratios. This was formed from the People’s Assembly.

Also, this was the start of the presidential system. Mongolia had never had a president before. So the 1990 election was truly remarkable in history.

Why was the election postponed from June to July?

The election was postponed due to the political conditions of that time. The path to the first democratic election was not a smooth one. Many problems, disputes, heated debates and discussions were held. At the end, we reached an agreement and held it successfully. P.Ochirbat, D.Byambasure, B.Chimed, J.Batmunkh and G.Ochirbat’s wisdom, vision and their patience played a significant role in resolving the arguments between the conservatives and the new, powerful leaders. The transition that cost so much in other countries was resolved in Mongolia through discussions and election. This was a proud moment where we showed the global public that we were culturally ready for democracy, that we valued freedom and that we had government ethics.

Mongolia’s democratic election experience catches many countries’ attention. Some countries learn from our experience. What do you have to say about this?

In the last 25 years, government power has shifted from one political power to the other through free elections in a calm, peaceful way. In this region, there’s no other country besides Mongolia that went through both economic and political transition in a peaceful way. So the peaceful revolutionary experience, the misses and wins of it all, attracts so many. It is rated well. Twenty-five years is a lot in a human years but pretty short in a nation’s history. But the 25 year anniversary marks the context of the good and the bad of the past, and the development of our future. It’s an event to share and one that captivates its viewers. In 1990’s democratic revolution, many organizations apart from the Democratic Party, such as the Democratic Socialists, New Progressive Movement, and Mongolian Student Government played important roles. The Mongolian public supported this democratic movement in its heart. There were lots of discussions, agreements, and riots. At the end, the Fundamental Law, and other legislation had additional changes made, multiple political parties were formed, we approved human rights, freedom, and privatization of property, and then got to the decision to organize an election. This is why Mongolian democracy was one of agreements, wisdom, and unity.

 You’re organizing an international, assembly of honor for this occasion. Who’s participating? Any well-known foreigners?

Along with the international assembly, we’re holding other events in the scope of this occasion. The assembly is being organized by the Staff of the President of Mongolia. The President of Mongolia, Speaker of Parliament, Prime Minister, as well as other respected national and foreign guests will come. Fifty guests and delegations from foreign countries and international organizations have announced that they will attend this assembly. The assembly will be broadcast live throughout the country on television.

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