Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj

Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj is the 4th and current President of Mongolia.

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Country of ResidenceMongolia
Date of Birth1963-03-30
GenderMale
NationalityMongolia
Place Of BirthZereg
Place Of Birth Khovd
TitleHead of State

Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj (Mongolian: Цахиагийн Элбэгдорж, also referred to as Elbegdorj Tsakhia, born March 30, 1963) is the 4th and current President of Mongolia. He won the election on May 24, 2009 and was sworn into office on June 18, 2009. He was the candidate of the Democratic Party, thus he became Mongolia's first president to never have been a member of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party and the first to obtain a Western education. Elbegdorj was one of the key leaders of the peaceful democratic revolution in 1990 that ended 70 years of communist rule.

Elbegdorj has been the Prime Minister of Mongolia twice, the vice speaker of the Parliament of Mongolia once, the majority leader of the parliament once, and a member of parliament four times. He is known as a pro-democracy, libertarian politician.[2] Elbegdorj is also the founder of the Ardchilal (English: Democracy) newspaper.

Elbegdorj has held several offices in the Mongolian government and his policy objectives have mostly centered around post-soviet social and economic reforms with particular focus on liberalizing economic policies, privatizing livestock, environmental preservation, fighting corruption, initiating housing policies and more. His stances on corruption, the environment, and women’s rights have earned him the praise of leaders around the world. The United Nations Environmental Programme awarded President Elbegdorj as a Champion of the Earth in June 2012 for his commitment to environmental protection and in July 2012 US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton applauded Elbegdorj and Mongolia on the country’s democratic progress and efforts to end corruption during a speech to the International Women’s Leadership Forum in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.[3][4]

Childhood and education

Elbegdorj was born into a nomadic herding family in Zereg sum, Khovd on March 30, 1963. He was the youngest of eight sons. Elbegdorj spent most of his early childhood herding livestock through the high mountains of Zereg sum.[5] His father, M. Tsakhia, was a veteran of Mongolia's border conflict with the Empire of Japan that resulted in the 1939 Battle of Khalkhyn Gol. Elbegdorj finished the sum's eight-year school in 1979. Afterwards, his family moved to Erdenet, and he graduated from Erdenet's No.1 ten-year school in 1981.[6]

In 1981/82, he worked in the Erdenet copper combine as a machinist, and in 1982 was drafted into military service. For heading a Revolutionary Youth League group in the army, he was awarded with the possibility to study Journalism and Marxism-Leninism at the Military Political Institute of the USSR in Lviv (Ukraine) from 1983 on.[7] He graduated in 1988 and then worked for the Mongolian army newspaper Ulaan Od (Red Star).[6]

After his first term as prime minister, he spent a year at the University of Colorado at Boulder's Economic Institute, earning a Diploma in 2001. Then Elbegdorj studied with a full scholarship to Harvard University and graduated from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government with a Master of Public Administration (MPA) in 2002.[8][9]

Marriage and family

Elbegdorj and Bolormaa Khajidsuren got acquainted with each other at an ice breaker students’ party in Lviv, Ukraine. Elbegdorj won the heart of his spouse through the many poems he wrote. Soon after they were married and had their first son in Lviv, Ukraine. Now, they have five children: four sons and an adopted daughter. In addition, Elbegdorj and Bolormaa are foster parents to more than two dozen orphans at Bolormaa's "Bolor Foundation."[10]

The "Bolor Foundation" was first established in 2006 to help orphans throughout Mongolia. Through the foundation, Elbegdorj and his wife Bolormaa have helped and assisted over 300 orphans. Later the two, decided to become foster parents for the 20 children of the "Baby Bear" class of the State Foster Care Center in Ulaanbaatar.[11] After becoming the foster parents of the children, Elbegdorj and Bolormaa in 2009 changed the name of the foundation to "Bolor Foundation, A Caring Family." Nowadays, the children from the "Bolor Foundation, A Caring Family" are Elbegdorj's family. Elbegdorj and Bolormaa, take care of the children just like their own and fend for them as well. They also focus on teaching the children how to become better people while encouraging them to learn to dance, sing, and play musical instruments.

Elbegdorj's wife Bolormaa Khajidsuren also leads another foundation aimed at tackling cancer in Mongolia called "Hope Cancer-Free Mongolia National Foundation." The "Hope Foundation" was established in 2010 and it works to help control, treat, and educate Mongolians about cancer.

Democratic movement



Elbegdorj talking at a demonstration, December 1989. Text reads in Mongolian language: "Cherish our history, embrace our freedom, develop our country"

During his studies in the USSR, Elbegdorj learned about Glasnost and concepts such as freedom of speech and economic liberties. After returning to Mongolia, he met with other like-minded people and tried to present those ideas to a wider audience, despite attempts of repression from the Politburo and threats by his employer to lose his job. When giving a speech at Young Artists’ Second National Congress on November 28, 1989, in the end of his speech, Elbegdorj said that Mongolia needed democracy and appealed youth to collaborate and organize together to establish democracy in Mongolia. He told the audience “We consider that Perestroika is a timely and brave step. Youth’s contribution to this revolutionary matter is not by supportive talks but by certain work. Our contribution is our objectives to be fulfilled. Our objectives are: “…following democracy and transparency and contributing to glasnost, … and to support truthful progressive power…for this…These are the objectives of an initiatives’ group. The group should be an organization that works. After the congress I hope we’ll gather and discuss and you’ll participate in this. The organization shall be based on public, voluntary and democratic principles.”[12]

The chairman of the congress stopped Elbegdorj's speech and warned him that he could not say such things. It was 1989 and Mongolia was already a communist country for 68 years. During that time, it was alleged that one out of two people was an unofficial spy of communist party that would oppress people who express different opinions than socialism and communism. During the break of the congress, two young individuals met Elbegdorj and the three agreed to initiate a democratic movement and to secretly spread the news to other young people. Later the three, including Elbegdorj met and united with ten other individuals and they are known as the Thirteen Leaders of Mongolia's Democratic Revolution.

At that time, Elbegdorj was a correspondent of army newspaper Ulaan Od. When he came back to work after the youth congress, the news about Elbegdorj's "wrongdoings" at the Young Artists Congress already had reached the newspaper. The director of the newspaper warned Elbegdorj that he would fire Elbegdorj if he participated in any activities outside of work and to do anything out of communist and socialist ideological lines. Despite the warning, Elbegdorj and his friends began to secretly meet with other young people in the circle auditorium of the National University of Mongolia and discussed about democracy, free market economy and what they knew about the prohibited subjects of that time and began to draft a plan to organize a democratic movement. They met many times and brought new friends and new supporters to join them secretly. One night they put ads of their open demonstration in streets.

On the morning of December 10, 1989, the first open pro-democracy demonstration met in front of the Youth Cultural Center in Ulaanbaatar. There Elbegdorj announced the creation of the Mongolian Democratic Union. Over the next months the activists led by Elbegdorj and others continued to organize demonstrations, rallies, protests and hunger strikes, as well as teacher's and worker's strikes. Activists were met with growing support from much of Mongolia, both in the capital and the countryside and the union’s activities led to other calls for democracy all over the country.[13][14][15][16][17]

After numerous demonstrations of many thousands of people in the capital city as well as provincial centers, MPRP Politburo - the authority of the government eventually gave way to the pressure and entered negotiations with the leaders of the democratic movement. In February 1990, the chairman of Politburo Jambyn Batmönkh of MPRP’s Central Committee decided to dissolve the Politburo and to resign on March 9, 1990. Thus paving the way for the first multi-party elections in Mongolia. Elbegdorj announced this news to the hunger strikers and the people that gathered on Sukhbaatar square at 10PM on that day after the negotiations between leaders of MPRP and Mongolian Democratic Union. As a result Mongolia became the first country in Central Asia to embrace democracy.[18]

As a Member of People’s Congress, Elbegdorj co-drafted and co-adopted Mongolia's new Constitution on January 13, 1992. The new Constitution guaranteed human rights, democracy, freedom of religion, and free speech. An international intellectual once referred Elbegdorj as "Mongolia's Thomas Jefferson.[2]

Journalism career

Elbegdorj worked as a correspondent at army newspaper Ulaan Od and a chief of army literature unit between 1988 and 1990. While in these positions Elbegdorj wrote articles mostly disclosing and criticizing publicly the brutal characteristics of “year difference” among privates in Mongolian army and also wrote articles to better the soldiers’ health and lives.[19]

Elbegdorj founded Mongolia’s first independent newspaper “Ardchilal” (Democracy) and worked as its very first Editor-in-Chief in 1990. During his work as the editor-in-chief, Elbegdorj spread information on the core values of democracy to the Mongolian people.[19] Furthermore, he announced that every Mongolian should have the all rights and freedom defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Right. Therefore changing the social thinking of many Mongolians. In 1990, Elbegdorj also worked diligently to establish freedom of press in Mongolia.[19]

Elbegdorj founded and worked as the head of Mongolia's first Entrepreneurs Association in 1991 as well. The association worked and helped to privatize livestock for free to their herders from the socialist collective farms. As a result, providing the first private property to almost almost half of Mongolia's entire population.[19]

Elbegdorj also helped to create Mongolia’s first independent TV station Eagle TV in 1994. It was run by the former Mongolian Broadcasting Company (MBC) (now owned by Eagle Broadcasting Company), a joint-venture between the US Christian missionary organization AMONG Foundation, and the Mongolia Media Corporation (MMC).

Political career

Elbegdorj was elected to the Parliament four times, in 1990, 1992, 1996 and in 2008. He was involved in the drafting and adoption of Mongolia’s new Constitution, which introduced human rights, democracy and a free market economy to the country. He supported the privatization of lifestock, of state-owned assets, and of land.

While as the Chairman of the State Commission on Rehabilitation, Elbegdorj initiated and brought the state to apologize for the victims and families of over 36,000 people that had been persecuted and mass massacred during the years of Mongolian People's Party communist rule.[20] He played a key role in the approval of the Rehabilitation Law, which provided rehabilitation, compensation to the survivors and families of political victims, and recovery from the Stalinist purges and prohibited future violation of human rights. In addition the law established a Memorial Day for Political Victims.

Elbegdorj, as the head of the Democratic party, co-led the Democratic Union Coalition to its historic victory in the 1996 parliamentary elections. He served as the Majority Leader of the Parliament from 1996 to 2000 and as the Vice Speaker of the Parliament from 1996 to 1998.

He worked as the Prime Minister of Mongolia twice in 1998 and 2004-2006.

First term as prime minister

In 1998, a clause in the constitution was removed that prohibited members of parliament to take cabinet responsibility. Thus on April 23, 1998, Parliament elected (61-6) Elbegdorj as the Prime Minister.[21] During his first term, Elbegdorj attempted to solve looming economic, political, structural and social issues through several policy initiatives such as, co-initiating a Law on Press Freedom and playing a key role to pass the law in 1998. Based on this law, another law passed that changed all daily state newspapers into public newspapers without direct control and censorship from the government.

Elbegdorj's most significant achievement during his first term as Prime Minister was to collect tax and create tax income. The biggest tax payer and only significant income contributor to the government's budget at the time was the copper ore mining and processing Erdenet Mining Corporation (EMC) - a joint stock company owned by the governments of Mongolia and the Russian Federation. EMC hadn't paid due tax, income and royalty to Mongolia's government between 1997-1998 which resulted in the government financial crumbling.

Because of this, the previous Prime Minister Enkhsaikhan stepped down due to pressure from the opposition party, the MPRP. After becoming Prime Minister, Elbegdorj ordered an audit of EMC. The audit results revealed that the state due income did not enter the state account, instead it went to dubious accounts of directors at the EMC. This corruption related case was reported in detail in investigative series “Swindle of the Century” on Eagle television.[22] Elbegdorj dismissed the EMC's chairman. As a result, the government began to receive due tax, royalty and income from the EMC.

In addition, at the recommendations of international financial institutions such as International Monetary Fund and the World Bank - aid granters to Mongolia, and discount interest rate loan giver Asian Development Bank, Elbegdorj made a decision to sell state owned Reconstruction Bank which became illiquid and was experiencing enormous loss, the biggest financial burden to the economy since its establishment in 1997.[23] At that time Golomt Bank was one of few private commercial banks in Mongolia and it was the only one that offered to buy Reconstruction Bank.

In response to this and the change of EMC's chairman, the minority group at the Parliament MPRP demanded Elbegdorj to resign and thus resulted Elbegdorj to lose confidence vote at the Parliament. The Parliament had prevented Elbegdorj's government from selling the bank. Elbegdorj's decision to sell the Reconstruction Bank was proven to be correct. The bank bankrupted soon after Elbegdorj's first term as prime minister was over and resulting the bankruptcy led the government to suffer enormous amount of financial loss.

Moreover, Elbegdorj assisted Mongolia's first Wrestling Palace which was half built for a long time. During his first term as Prime Minister he made sure the construction was completed.

He stayed in office until December 9, because of the disagreements of the Parliament and the President for a new Prime Minister, as the President vetoing proposals from the Democratic Party’s majority. Finally, in December the President agreed to the parliament's proposal on Janlavyn Narantsatsralt, former Mayor of Ulaanbaatar as Prime Minister, and Elbegdorj stepped down.

Second term as prime minister

On August 20, 2004, Elbegdorj became a Prime Minister of Mongolia for the second time, despite not being a member of parliament. This time he headed a grand coalition government after the vote in the parliamentary elections had been evenly split between the two major political forces - Democratic Coalition and the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party.

In his second term in the government, Elbegdorj proclaimed a fight against corruption and poverty, which he saw as the biggest challenges to Mongolia's economic development.

Besides Elbegdorj initiated a "Green Wall" environmental project to plant trees in barren areas and desert zones to prevent from dust storm coming from Mongolia to Asia and to reduce air pollution.[24]

During his term January 27, 2005, the state controlled National State Television and Radio were converted into formally independent organisations with increasingly smaller control by the government.[25] Also, legal provisions that prohibited demonstrations on Ulaanbaatar's Sükhbaatar Square were abolished.[26] He subsidized and supported technical schools and specialized professions to reduce unemployment. To promote affordable computers and internet access, he established Information and Communication Agency under the government. He attempted to strengthen domestic businesses by reducing the administrative overhead, by eliminating excessive regulations, many licensing requirements, and import taxes for key product categories.[27] By decision of his government English replaced Russian as the first foreign language to be taught in public schools as well.

Elbegdorj initiated the erection of the Genghis Khan memorial complex in front of Mongolia's government house for the 800th Anniversary of the Great Mongol Empire. He also proposed to relocate Mongolia's capital to Harhorin, a small town 400 km west of Ulaanbaatar, at the site of the former (until the 1260s) capital of the Mongol Empire.

In August 2005, Elbegdorj wanted to run for by-elections in Ulaanbaatar's Bayangol düüreg. However, the MPRP threatened to leave the coalition if Elbegdorj ran against MPRP candidate M. Ekhbold, and Elbegdorj withdrew.[28]

On January 13, 2006, the MPRP left the coalition anyway, and Elbegdorj was forced to resign. The MPRP proceeded to form a new government with the help of DP defectors and independent MPs, the new prime minister became M. Enkhbold. The events triggered protests from some civic groups and their followers.[29] Also during Elbegdorj's term, Mongolia was accepted into the European Union's GSP+ system,[30] which allows Mongolian exporters to pay lower customs tariffs when exporting to the EU.

2008 election and political unrest

After his party's defeat in the June 29th, 2008 parliamentary elections, Elbegdorj in his position of DP chairman was one of the many protesters against alleged irregularities. Most international observers, however, noted that the elections appeared mostly free and fair.[31][32] The MPRP and several media outlets accused him of inciting the riots of July 1st, 2008, in which the MPRP headquarters was burnt down, and the Central Cultural Palace damaged and looted, a charge which Elbegdorj denied. The court ruled in favor of Elbegdorj in that he was only practicing his right to freedom of speech and he questioned why the results of the 2008 election varied so much from the numerous surveys that were conduced by both local and international organizations prior to the election that had the Democratic Party far in the lead for victory over the MPRP. His actions were not the result of the riots.

In addition, Elbegdorj accused the MPRP of having ordered the death of five people during the riots (in connection with the deaths of four of these five people from gunshot wounds, ten police officers were later charged with murder, and Amnesty International raised concerns over the use of "unnecessary and excessive force" by the police[33]). In an interview on July 3 and a letter of July 4, Elbegdorj even alleged that the MPRP's inaction had encouraged the rioters and that the MPRP was using dictatorial methods.[34][35]

On September 2, 2008, Elbegdorj resigned as the head of the Democratic Party in the aftermath of the party's defeat in the 2008 elections. N. Altankhuyag was elected by the Democratic Party's National Consultative Committee as the next chairman, and the Democratic Party entered a coalition government with the MPRP. On September 12, Elbegdorj was the only member of parliament who voted against S. Bayar as Mongolia's new prime minister.[36]

2009 Mongolian presidential election



Elbegdorj walking down from the Genghis Khan monument to greet Mongolians after victory in the Presidential elections, 25 May 2009.



Election preliminary results. Source: Montsame Agency

At the Democratic Party convention of April 3, 2009, Elbegdorj was elected as the presidential candidate from the Democratic party. He received 63.5% of the vote, defeating Erdeniin Bat-Üül. After Elbegdorj was announced as the candidate, the Civic Will Party and the Mongolian Green Party pledged their support. Elbegdorj won the elections by 51.21% of votes while incumbent president Enkhbayar got 47.41% mostly from the countryside.[37][38]-->

On 5 June 2009, the parliament decided to swear Elbegdorj in on 18 June 2009.[39]

Presidency

As soon as President Elbegdorj took office, he initiated an Amnesty Law, mainly in order to free the 300 prisoners sentenced after the July 1, 2008, uprising. The MPRP-dominated parliament distorted the bill to include corrupt politicians.[40]

In September 2009, Elbegdorj visited the Independent Authority Against Corruption and expressed his dissatisfaction with the work of this important agency as it investigates petty corruption instead of political corruption. He disbanded the Community council of the IAAC formed by the former President N. Enkhbayar which included sport and music stars and supreme clergy.[41] He then reorganized the council with professional lawyers.[42]

By the end of 2009, the President vetoed the national budget which allocated a billion tugrik for each MP (76,000,000,000 total) to invest in their respective constituencies. Such allocation of funds was seen as a form of political corruption and distortion of the democratic principle of checks and balances that constitutionally divides power between the legislative and executive branches. (Some observers compared it to "pork" in the United States government budgeting.) It also provides unfair advantage to the current MPs in future election campaigns, say opponents. The parliament over-rode the veto, which supporters of the veto said proved the parliament was "deeply corrupt."[43]

On January 14, 2010, Elbegdorj announced that he would, henceforth, systematically use his prerogative to pardon all persons sentenced to death. He stated that most countries in the world had abolished the death penalty, and that Mongolia should follow their example; he suggested that it be replaced with a thirty year prison sentence. The decision was controversial; when Elbegdorj announced it in Parliament, MPRP represesentatives[44] chose not to give the applause customarily due after a presidential speech.[45] (See: Capital punishment in Mongolia)



Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj making a speech

Despite the harsh criticism from conservative politicians and the opposition, Elbegdorj's decision to abolish the death penalty and his insistence on adopting the 2nd Optional Protocol to the Convention on Civil and Political Rights was received highly among other nations around the world. As a result, on October 18, 2011 Elbegdorj was awarded the prize for "Abolitionist of the Year 2011" by the international organization "Hands off Cain." They viewed the actions by Elbegdorj to an "example of a country that fosters the human rights to life among Asian countries.[46]

"By ratifying the Second Optional Protocol Mongolia would add yet one more country in the world community to fully abolish the death penalty. Pardoning a life does not mean pardoning a penalty. The punishment for serious and cruel felonies must be severe, and must be just. However, I do not think it is just to deprive any citizens of life in the name of the State. The right to life is a fundamental right of a human being and cannot depend on anyone, not even on the Head of the State. The State should respect that very fundamental human right, and secure it by law." - Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, May 18, 2010, “From Moratoriam to Abolition of the Capital Punishment-No Justice Without Life[47]

In 2012, the Mongolian Parliament updated a law to join the 2nd Optional Protocol to the Convention on Civil and Political Rights; making Mongolia a state party to the convention and reinforcing the country’s commitment to the abolition of capital punishment.[48]

As President of Mongolia, Elbegdorj also convened a Judiciary Reform and Justice Forum in Ulan Bator, Mongolia on April, 2011.[49] The reform established laws designed to ensure impartiality of judges and created a merit-based system for the selection of new judges. The judicial reform also allows citizen representatives to participate in court trials and requires that all judicial decisions are updated on the internet to maintain public awareness of all court proceedings.[50][51]

Elbegdorj is also the very first Mongolian President to initiate campaigns for greater environmental sustainability and also a campaign against the abuse of alcohol use in Mongolia. Elbegdorj declared that one day of the year will be a National Day to Plant Trees all around Mongolia.[52] Elbegdorj has also focused on curbing the abuse of alcoholic beverages in Mongolia and has even gone as far as to ban the use of all alcoholic beverages at State Dinner and State Ceremonies under his name.[53] In September 22, 2011, Elbegdorj was awarded the "Presidential Medal for Leadership in the Cause of Democracy" by the U.S. Foreign Policy Association and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The award recognized the vital role Elbegdorj played in peacefully ending the 70 year old communist regime and also his dedication to human rights, freedom, and supportive of market economy.[54]

President Elbegdorj serves as chair of the Community of Democracies, an intergovernmental coalition of democratic countries to which Mongolia is a participating member. During his time as chair, Elbegdorj has led initiatives within the coalition to promote Zero Tolerance to Corruption and Education for Democracy and also spoke on behalf of these initiatives at the 66th General Assembly of United Nations. He has also worked with coalition members to form an agenda around the strengthening of civil society and women’s rights and their political participation.[55][56][57]

Citizens Chamber

In 2009, Elbegdorj opened the Citizens Chamber; a public hearing forum which encourages the participation of Mongolian citizens in the parliament’s decision making. In each proceeding, citizens are given time to speak and express their opinion on pending legislation. The hall is open to any of Mongolia’s 2.7 million people and is located in Ulaanbaatar; some additional halls have opened in other provinces. They are designed to encourage civil participation and with the hopes that a consensus is built between legislators and the citizens of Mongolia before any open item becomes law.[58][59]

Anti-Corruption

Elbegdorj has been steadfast in advocating for stricter anti-corruption measures and his 2009 presidential campaign focused heavily on the issue. Previously, during his terms as prime minister, he worked to uncover and eliminate several corruption scandals including his handling of the Erdenet Mining Corporation’s tax scandal.[60][61]

Much of the corruption in Mongolia stems from interaction between bad actors in the business community and the government surrounding mining rights; so in an effort to create a dialogue between different stakeholders in the natural resource and mining community Elbegdorj opened a roundtable in Ulaanbaatar with the World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) in March 2011. The meeting brought together top executives of Mongolian industry and NGOs to discuss anti-corruption initiatives in Mongolia. As president, Elbegdorj has continuously pushed an anti-corruption platform and encouraged parliament to take action to prevent it.[62]

"By the virtue of democracy, I twice served as the Prime Minister. At both terms I tried to combat corruption. I think corruption makes beautiful Mongolia look ugly. I sincerely believe that the true enemy of democracy and freedom is corruption. Not my mouth, but my heart says these words. The worst theft is corruption which damages people’s common rights and liberties. To me, combating corruption is not a promise. It is my nature, my character. I am convinced that fighting corruption must be one of the most important duties of the Mongolian State today. I earnestly want to help my people to clean our country from corruption. This is my goal. I will work to achieve this goal." - Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, April 25, 2012, "ACCOUNTBILITY MUST BE CALLED ON ONLY AFTER THE CITIZENS ARE GIVEN THEIR RIGHTS"

Women's Rights

The president has long been an advocate for women’s rights and more proportional representation in government. During a September 2012 speech at the UN General Assembly he stressed the importance of women in leadership, highlighting the three-fold growth of women representatives elected in the 2012 Mongolian parliamentary elections.[63]

“We need more women leaders. Women tend to see the whole picture. For society to advance, we need more women in public service at all levels – local to global. They bring a unique perspective often missing in global challenges… Have you ever heard of a woman bloody dictator or tyrant? I think not. If there were more women in power, I think we would have more harmony, more engagement and less suffering and less conflict.”

- Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, September 27, 2012 “Empower the People, Not the Government. Build Opportunities, Not Statues”

Advocating for Democracy and Human Rights

Elbegdorj is a permanent member of the board of directors of the "Young Leader" foundation of Mongolia since 1992 and a member of the director's board of the Mongolian Academy of Political Education since 1993. He founded Mongolia's Liberty Center, a non-governmental organization advocating human rights, freedom of expression and education in 2000.

Elbegdorj is a frequent lecturer, both domestically and abroad. For example, he was one of the speakers of the August, 2007, conference called "Re-founding America" in Williamsburg, Virginia, United States, sponsored by the International Society for Individual Liberty.[64]

Elbegdorj visited nearby Kyrgyzstan in April of 2012 as part of an undertaking to promote democratic change in the region. The President spoke at the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan and met with NGO leaders and students to discuss the transitional experience over the past 20 years in Mongolia. Following this visit the President began planning for the establishment of the Democratic Transition Assistance Foundation of Mongolia. The new initiative calls for the allocation of certain funds from the Mongolian budget to be used in support of democratic transitions in Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan along with economic reforms in countries such as North Korea and Myanmar by using Mongolia’s transitions in democratic reform and consolidation as a model.[65] In the summer of 2012 the foundation played host to several delegations from Kyrgyzstan, North Korea and Myanmar, covering issues including judicial reform and mineral legislation.

In an effort to encourage the adoption of democratic governance in Asian countries, Elbegdorj, along with Korean President Lee Myung Bak, started the Asian Partnership for Democracy initiative as an arm of the Community of Democracies with a particular focus on the region in which Mongolia is the only long standing democracy.[66]

In July of 2012, US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Mongolia and met with President Elbegdorj. The Secretary praised the recent parliamentary elections in which nine women were elected and applauded Mongolia for its “courage” in building a democratic system in a territory surrounded by Russia and China.[67][68]

President Elbegdorj visited the United States in September of 2012 where he spoke at his Alma Mater, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the UN General Assembly in New York, New York. His speech at Harvard focused on his role in Mongolia’s democratic revolution as well as the virtues of transparency and accountability in government versus the dangers of corruption.[69]

The speech during the UN General Assembly told the story of Mongolia’s democratization but also looked at several threats and opportunities present, as the President sees them, both inside and outside of Mongolia. The suppression of women’s rights and their roles in leadership positions were highlighted. President Elbegdorj spoke on the last parliamentary election which boasted a tripling of seats gained by women representatives from the previous parliament. He also touched on the economic growth of Mongolia and the country’s nuclear free status, the need for multilateral support to governments transitioning to democratic governance as well as the distinction he sees between leading for the people versus “statue-building”.[70][71]

In his UN speech, the President condemned the violence in Syria and called on world leaders to unify to end the bloodshed. He then criticized the attack on the US Embassy in Libya saying, “I was very saddened by the death of the Ambassador and others in Libya. The mission of diplomacy is peaceful. Attacking diplomatic compounds are violation of both the letter and spirit of international law.”[72]

Nuclear Weapon Free

The UN Security Council recognizes Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status despite the fact that it cannot join one of the World’s Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zones, in part, because of the country’s close proximity to nuclear-armed states Russia and China.[73]

President Elbegdorj has made Mongolia’s commitment to being nuclear-free and his optimism of a nuclear free world a principal component of his foreign policy agenda and often reinforces that commitment during speaking engagements.[74]

President Elbegdorj made international headlines in 2012 after being the first world leader invited to visit to the Iranian nuclear facility in Natanz. After his visit he stressed that the program “has to be transparent to the world; in particular, the program must be under permanent supervision of the UN and the IAEA. Iran’s nuclear program must not endanger or cause threat to the interest and security of regional peace as well as of any other nation. Mongolia remains committed to safeguarding her nuclear free status, supported by special UN resolutions. Mongolia shall seek to contribute to securing universal peace by fully banning nuclear weapons in East Asia and the world at large.”[75]

Media Coverage

The economic growth of Mongolia’s economy and mining sector under the current administration has resulted in coverage of Mongolia’s affairs from major western media outlets; a rare occurrence before 2012. Profiles and editorials from publications like the New York Times, TIME Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and others have mostly focused on the economic growth and opportunity in Mongolia as well as the President’s role in overseeing these changes.

Examples of western coverage:

The New York Times From Mongolia, Clinton Takes a Jab at China Jane Perlez July 9, 2012

Time Magazine Hesitant Steppes Hannah Beech August 20, 2012

The New York Times Though Not Yet open, a Huge Mine is Transforming Mongolia Kit Gillet September 13, 2012

The Wall Street Journal Mongolia’s Next Challenge Larry Diamond, Francis Fukuyama and Stephen Krasner September 24, 2012

During a September 2012 visit to the United States, President Elbegdorj was interviewed by popular CNN television host Christiane Amanpour and answered questions on topics ranging from corruption in government, the balance between mining sector expansion versus environmental preservation, to diplomatic relationships and the rapid growth of their economy.[76]

Political affiliation

  • Member of the National Counseling Committee of Democratic Party from 1994 onwards.
  • Leader and chairman of the Democratic Party between April 2006- Sept, 2008 and 1996-1999.
  • Chairman of the Democratic Union Coalition of the Mongolian National Democratic Party and Mongolian Social Democratic Party in 1996-2000.
  • Leader of the Mongolian Democratic Union in 1989-1997.

Publications

Many other articles, speeches, and interviews by Elbegdorj have been printed in various national and international publications.

Sources

(About Democratic Coalition won 36 out of 76 seats in parliament and the power sharing agreement, Elbegdorj becomes Prime Minister)

References

  1. Oliver Corff, Who is Who der Mongolischen Politik: Älbägdorj, Caxiagiïn (in German)
  2. Miller, Vincent H. (Spring 2004). "From Communism to Capitalism in the Land of Genghis Khan". International Society for Individual Liberty. http://www.isil.org/resources/fnn/2004spring/mongolian-jefferson.html. Retrieved May 21, 2009.
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