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Mongolia

Struggling Mongolia picks new premier

An economic downturn in Mongolia has prompted its parliament to appoint a new prime minister, Chimed Saikhanbileg. His predecessor was accused of failing to turn major mineral deposits into tangible revenue.

Mongolia's Democratic Party leader Chimed Saikhanbileg on Friday became the landlocked country's premier, replacing Norov Altankhuyag, who was removed two week ago.

Saikhanbileg got 42 votes from the 44 members of parliament present in Mongolia's legislative chamber or Great Hural, according to the house's website.

The opposition Mongolian People's Party (MPP) boycotted parliament's ballot, saying that as science and education minister in Altankhuyag's previous cabinet, Saikhanibileg had also overlooked growing economic problems.

Investment disputes

Foreign mining companies have been in dispute with Mongolia's government, resulting in delays in investment funds for the giant Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine. The mine operator Rio Tinto had a share in the project.

In the first three quarters of 2014, foreign investment in Mongolia slumped 59 percent, parallel to a slump in commodity prices.

Three years ago it was enjoying a export boom and high prices.

Bontoi Munkdhul, a Mongolian market analyst said the new prime minister was "well-liked by the business community."

Mining analyt Dale Choi said, however, that Saikhanbileg represented "business as usual," predicting the foreign investors would stay away until elections due in 2016.

US graduate

Saikhanbileg, who was born in 1969, is a graduate of George Washington University and worked briefly for as a director of a private law firm before becoming a significant figure within Mongolia's governing Democratic Party (DP).

Mongolia, with a population of three million and sandwiched between China and Russia, shook off communism nearly 25 years ago.

Previously, it was a tightly-controlled Soviet state.

ipj/tj (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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