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Opposition storms to power in Mongolia

The Mongolian People's Party (MPP) has swept back to power in a landslide election result, early returns show. Campaigning was dominated by concern over slowing economic growth amid a drop in commodity prices.

The opposition MPP party has won a decisive victory in

parliamentary elections

in the landlocked nation where a fall in commodity prices has sent the economy into a sharp decline, early returns showed Thursday.

The head of the national election commission said Thursday that the MPP won 65 out of 76 seats in the national legislature, formally known as the State Grand Khural.

The transformation of the former Soviet bloc state since a peaceful revolution in 1990 has been an alluring draw for foreign investors eyeing Mongolia's rich mineral resources, unleashing a boom from 2010 to 2012.

But political disputes over the role of foreign investment and slowing growth in China, Mongolia's largest trading partner, have hindered development and many people remain impoverished.

"As the economic crises persist, there's considerable mistrust in the political system," Morris Rossabi, an expert on Mongolia at Columbia University, told the AFP news agency.

Pre-election polling by the International Republican Institute showed that more than 60 percent of Mongolians felt the country was headed in the wrong direction.

"The people of Mongolia have just given great trust to the MPP," party chairman Miyegombiin Enkhbold said as he thanked the party's supporters. He added that that the party "understands that this trust is a huge responsibility."

Mongolei Parlamentswahlen Plakatte

Mongolia's vibrant democratic system is a rarity in a region characterized by one-party states and authoritarian leaders

Lively election campaign

The contest had largely been between the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and opposition MPP, a holdover from the country's socialist past that has traditionally commanded a strong following among older voters.

The DP won just nine seats in Wednesday's vote, down from 37. Prime Minister Chimed Saikhanbileg, and the parliament's chairman, Zandaakhuu Enkhbold, were among those set to lose their seats. Voters also soundly rejected independent candidates, with only one out of 69 candidates elected.

It was the seventh parliamentary election since the country peacefully transitioned to democracy in 1990, and the result puts the MPP in a prime position to retake the presidency in a vote next year.

Demand for coal and copper from neighboring China and weak commodities prices have hit Mongolia hard. The IMF forecasts economic growth of 0.4 percent this year, compared with 17.5 percent in 2011, the year before the DP took power.

jar/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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