Mongolia will hold its first ever presidential runoff vote on July 9 after none of the three candidates won an absolute majority in the election, electoral officials say.
Khaltmaa Battulga of the opposition Democratic Party won the most votes, but failed to secure the majority required, the General Election Committee said on Monday.
The former martial arts star will face off against parliament speaker Miyeegombo Enkhbold of the ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP).
“I never lose, I must win. I always win in the history of my life,” Battulga told Reuters news agency in an interview on Monday night, before the preliminary results were announced.
The election was seen as a referendum on the government’s economic recovery plans and China’s role in resource-rich Mongolia, a parliamentary democracy that has been buffeted by financial upheaval in recent years.
After the final districts were counted, Battulga emerged with 517,478 votes, 38.1 percent of the total, according to Mongolia’s state television.
The race for the second spot in the runoff was tight.
After trailing in the early count overnight, Enkhbold pulled ahead of Sainkhuu Ganbaatar of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party early Tuesday, with 30.3 percent of the total. A mere 0.1 percentage point separated the two men.
An establishment politician and currently parliamentary speaker, Enkhbold appears to have suffered as a result of his party’s austerity policies.
The new MPP administration secured a $5.5bn loan from the International Monetary Fund last year, raised interest rates, and slashed public spending to try to cope with heavy debts and a precipitous fall in the value of Mongolia’s currency, the tugrik.
|Enkhbold scraped through to the runoff with 30.3percent of the vote [File:Reuters]|
Around two-thirds of nearly two million registered voters cast ballots, the election commission said.
More than 18,000 ballots were left blank by voters protesting against the choice of candidates on offer.
Voters said they heard little from the three about unemployment and jobs, their top concerns according to opinion polls. Campaigning has instead focused on their opponents’ allegedly shady pasts.
A video showed Enkhbold and two MPP officials discussing a $25m plan for selling government positions.
Battulga, a brash businessman, was haunted by reports of offshore accounts attached to his name, as well as the arrests of several of his associates by Mongolia’s anti-corruption body last spring.
And Ganbaatar appeared in a video in which he allegedly received a $44,000 donation from a member of the Moonies, or Unification Church, a South Korean-based Christian group that critics consider a cult.
All three rejected the allegations against them.
Mongolians vote in the shadow of corruption allegations
Source: News agencies