Skip to comments.Mongolia's Giant Steppe for Democracy(Mongolian troops serving in Iraq)
Posted on 07/10/2004 10:49:09 AM PDT by TigerLikesRooster
John J. Tkacik, Jr. July 9, 2004
|Mongolian troops serving in Iraq|
Democracy in Asia has been full of irony of late. Last week, up to half a million people took to the streets in Hong Kong to protest China's decision that one of the world's most modern cities is still not ready for democracy. Meanwhile the predominantly pastoral population of formerly Communist Mongolia reveled in their democratic freedoms by voting in the country's eighth general election since 1990.
The surprisingly strong performance by a coalition of democratic candidates in Mongolia's June 27 polls was not just another milestone for democracy in the vast steppes of that sparsely populated nation of nomadic herders. It also showed how -- not withstanding Beijing's attempts to pretend otherwise -- democracy can rapidly take root in even the most traditional of Asian societies.
In 1996, a year before the Hong Kong handover, Mongolia's young, inexperienced Western-oriented Motherland Democratic Coalition (MDC) won a governing majority from the former communist party, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP). Four years later the coalition lost virtually all its seats to the former ruling communists in the 2000 polls, despite scoring a respectable 46-47% of the vote.
At the time, the democrats were blamed for the country's poor economic performance and their image suffered from internal bickering, although legislative deadlock inspired by the MPRP did little to help.
The old line MPRP socialists approached the 2004 elections with promises of generous government subsidies to unemployed heads of household and an $80 cash gift to all newborns. The MPRP spent most of the country's foreign exchange reserves paying off a $250 million Soviet-era debt to Russia (thereby gaining a slightly more respectable sovereign debt rating from Standard and Poor's) and encouraged new foreign investment in the Central Asian nation's mineral wealth.
The democratic coalition had its own message for the masses. Downplaying the free-market policies they'd pursued while in power, they too campaigned on a platform of social-welfare payouts -- promising every family with children would receive a monthly stipend of 10,000 tugriks ($8.50) per child.
Nonetheless with Mongolia's economy on the rebound, recording gross domestic product growth of 5.5% last year, many outside observers expected the MPRP to retain its huge majority in the Great Hural, Mongolia's parliament, where it held 72 out of the 76 seats prior to June 27 polls.
But the observers were wrong. Rural voters complained of frustration with poverty; small and mid-sized businesses complained that MPRP policies favored only large state enterprises; and everyone complained about the MPRP's lavish campaign spending which reminded them of the bad old days of one-party elections. The result was that the MPRP lost half its seats while the rival coalition gained at least 30, leaving the opposing camps with 36 seats each, and the remaining four in the hands of independent legislators expected to side with the democrats. That leaves the outcome in limbo, since neither side has the 39 seats necessary to form a government.
As in many long-established democracies, there were claims of irregularities and demands for recounts, which are currently the cause of court action. But whatever the final outcome, the fact that 77% of Mongol voters were able to vote in an open election -- with the majority choosing to cast their ballots against a ruling party which controlled up to 90% of the campaign advertising -- is startling proof that democracy has taken hold in one of Asia's most ancient and traditional cultures.
Regardless of which party eventually forms the next government, the continued success of Mongolia's democracy is good news for the U.S., since the country is one of America's most important friends in Central Asia. Mongolia is on its third rotation of a 130-man peacekeeping team in Iraq, which U.S. marine officers describe as "man-for-man a value-added partner" in the country. In February, a Mongolian sergeant shot and killed a suicide bomber outside the Multinational Division barracks in al-Hillah, just south of Baghdad. Last month Mongol troopers defused a terrorist explosive intended for U.S. Marines.
Despite pressure from both China and Russia to distance itself from the U.S., Mongolia remains a staunch ally. And Bush administration officials have long seen the country's maturing democratic culture, its popular elections and movement toward free markets as an example for the rest of Central Asia -- a region not known for its surfeit of democracies -- to follow.
Next week, U.S. President George W. Bush will welcome Mongolian President Natsagiyn Bagabandi to Washington and reaffirm American support for Central Asia's most vibrant democracy. This week, President Bagabandi has been visiting Beijing. Perhaps he could use the opportunity to explain the benefits that democracy has brought to his country, and so undermine the rationale of Chinese leaders for continuing to deny it to Hong Kong.
Mr. Tkacik, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., is a retired officer in the U.S. foreign service who served in Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Taipei.
History comes full circle. Genghis Khan's armies pillaged Baghdad in 1258.
Caption that picture: These guys can kick your butt!
You learn something new every day--I didn't even know they had troops in Iraq.
I remember that segment of the History Channel's "Barbarians" wherein the Muslim chieftain or whatever mistreated the ambassador that Genghis Khan sent over. They learned pretty quickly that you don't mess with the Mongolians.
Baghdad class reunion picture.
Mongolia is allied with Russia
I'd be curious to see how the new Mongolian army compares to them.
ULAN BATOR ROCKS!
PRC mainland is not ready for democracy because over 90 percent is still not well educated and poor. China cannot have a period of political infighting on a grandscale. Hong Kong on the other hand is different. Sizable portion of her population is educated and middle class by mainland standard. It is also an opportunity for the PRC to experiment to see if China's population in well developed areas are capable of handling democracy. This approach worked when China decided to embark on free market economics in a controlled process. She experimented in one province to see if their society can handle capitalism and the changes that it would bring (unemployment, less dependence on central government subsidies, etc). If the experiment caused chaos, only one province was affected and it would take less resources to recover. History showed that the experiment was successful before it was systematicly spread to the rest of China, which in turn benefited the country overall. Sooner or later the PRC must deal with democracy because history has shown that as a nation develops economically, it growing middle/wealthy class will want political power (which now rests only in the Communist Party). The longer the Communist Party refrains from experimenting in democracy the less controlled the process will be when the demand for freedom overwhelms them.
(Gives "Consort" the thumbs up sign.)
Finally, some decent barbeque in the Middle East.
Alamut was once a mountain fortress in the arid hills south of the Caspian Sea, about 100 km from present-day Tehran in Iran. Only ruins remain of this fortress today.
In 1090 the fortress was invaded and occupied by the powerful Hashshashin (Assassins), and was then fabled for its gardens and libraries. Marco Polo wrote that men the Assassin sheik (supposedly Hasan Ibn Saba) wanted to turn into killers would be drugged, deposited in the garden, and be allowed to dally there with all its joys. Later the men would be drugged again and removed from the garden. Upon waking up, they would be told that they could experience those pleasures again if they killed for the order.
It was destroyed in 1256 by Hulagu Khan as part of the Mongol offensive. The fortress itself was impregnable, but the Assassin sheik surrendered it without a real fight, in the vain hope that Hulagu would be merciful.
The Buddhists who had practiced their religion for centuries upon centuries in relative peace and tranquility, were suddenly brutally repressed, denied access, tortured and many ultimately were murdered by Mongolia's despotic, communist regime.
There is some great information about these massacres-many of which occurred in the early years of their reign, during the 20s and 30s-in the Black Book of Communism.
This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in knowing the true extent of communist depredations throughout the history of the 20th Century.