With the majority of votes raised, Khurelsukh holds an insurmountable lead over Sodnomzundui Erdene of the opposition Democratic Party.
Former Mongolian Prime Minister Ukhnaa Khurelsukh has become the country’s sixth democratically elected president, also consolidating the power of the 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 on Wednesday, with the majority of votes raised. to national elections.
He will replace Khaltmaa Battulga in office, who has been denied the opportunity to seek re-election following controversial changes to Mongolia’s constitution that limited presidents to one term.
There are about two million eligible voters in the landlocked country between China and Russia, where political instability has been a constant problem for young democracy.
The nation passed its first constitution in 1992 after decades of communist rule.
Khurelsukh’s victory followed a low campaign amid COVID-19 restrictions. Most of the external events were canceled on Saturday after foreign candidate Dangaasuren Enkhbat of the National Labor Party tested positive for coronavirus.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mongols lined up to vote with surgical masks and a mix of traditional clothing, business attire and sportswear under the blue sky, which are in distant rows marked by lines on the ground.
They were brought to the polling stations by staff in protective clothing, before casting their votes in front of the Mongolian flag.
Mongolia’s hybrid political system gives its elected parliament the right to appoint governments and make policy decisions, but the president has the power to veto legislation and assume and dismiss judges.
With the presidency often controlled by the opposition party, the division of power has created a political impasse that some believe has hampered Mongolia’s development.
Khurelsukh’s election is expected to give the MPP more control over the levers of power, even if he is forced to relinquish his affiliation to the party immediately.
The Democratic Party campaigned under the slogan “Mongolia without Dictatorship”, and Erdene warned that the country was moving towards a one-party state.
It remains unclear what the consolidation of the MPP’s power will mean for Mongolia’s largest foreign investment project, the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine managed by Rio Tinto, which the government in Ulan Batoru sought to renegotiate when it grew. construction costs.
Inequality is a major problem among Mongols, with the poverty rate at 28 percent, according to the latest World Bank survey
The country is also one of the hardest hit by climate change, which has caused desertification and pollution. Temperatures range from minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit) in winter to 30C (86F) in summer.
Traditionally heavily influenced by nomadic culture, more than two-thirds of the population now lives in cities.