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Mongolia Declares State of Emergency after Violence

At least 5 people have been killed and 300 injured in Mongolia in the post election violence. Another 700 have been detained after Tuesday’s violent protests. Heavily armed soldiers have now been patrolling the streets of the capital, Ulan Bator, to prevent further violence. A four-day state of emergency has been imposed.

Mongolian policemen confront protestors in Ulan Bator on Tuesday

Mongolian policemen confront protestors in Ulan Bator on Tuesday

Around 8000 people stormed through the centre of Ulan Bator on Tuesday, damaging buildings, torching cars and pelting the police with rocks. They were protesting after the preliminary results of the national polls had been declared. The initial results showed the ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party or MPRP winning a majority of the seats. The opposition Democratic Party alleged manipulation in the polls and accused the MPRP of vote rigging.

The MPRP, a party of reformed communists, insists the polls were free and fair. It has in turn accused the Democrats of inciting the violence.

Lack of political culture

A professor of the Humboldt University in Berlin, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, points out that there is so far no distinctive political culture in Mongolia. That means, it is possible that the loser simply wants a re-election: “There is no fair loser. The competing two parties are opponents. It's not like in Germany. In Mongolia the fight is much tougher. The reason is a lack of democratic tradition there. Unlike former East Germany, which could rely on former West Germany, Mongolia was left alone after the political turning point. As a result, the economy, the trade, everything broke down."

Protests were not rare in the history of the country, which embraced democracy in 1990. But none of the protests has been violent to this degree.

Row over mineral resources

During the campaign, the two parties were locked in combat on the issue of mining rights - how big a share foreign investors are allowed to hold when it comes to the mining of copper, gold and uranium. Rich in natural resources, Mongolia is still poor. Up to 40% of the population are under the poverty line. High unemployment, unprecedented inflation of over 15% and a non-functioning welfare system - the Mongolians are simply in despair, says the professor: “The people have virtually no chance to improve their lives. There is a deep dissatisfaction among them, no matter which party rules. Besides, the social discrepancy is becoming larger. The wealth is apparently in the hands of a small group of people. So people are outraged. And this outrage has burst into the open now."

It is hard to predict what will happen next. And it is not easy for other countries to intervene, especially the big neighbour China, because the Mongolians dislike the Chinese for historical reasons, says the professor. And within Mongolia, although the ruling party is pro-Russia and the Democrats pro-America, neither of the two countries can do anything to help except to go on providing financial support for Mongolia.

  • Date 02.07.2008
  • Author Miao Tian 02/07/08
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LsLl
  • Date 02.07.2008
  • Author Miao Tian 02/07/08
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LsLl