Communists Take Control in Mongolia

ByABC News
July 4, 2000, 5:35 AM

July 4 -- As America celebrates democracy, Mongolians are fed up with it just four years after their first taste of freedom.

The nations bitter four-year experiment ended this weekend, when voters gave the nations communists a sweeping mandate in the Great Hural, or parliament.

With voter turnout at an enviable 90 percent, the communists look set to take 96 percent of the 76 seats in parliament.

While this may appear to be a huge step backwards, the Mongolian Peoples Revolutionary Partys has a new face.

And if it looks a lot like Tony Blair, thats because Mongolian communist leader Nambariin Enkhbayar has patterned both his campaign and policies after those of the British prime minister.

The New Face of Communism

Enkhbayar, 42, is fluent in English, and studied English literature at Leeds University in England. He has promised that there will be no return to hard-line communist policies.

We cannot afford to go back, he told The Associated Press. We cannot survive if we go back.

Enkhbayar appears to want to slow down the pace of privatization, but not reverse it.

Maybe we are realizing that this type of privatization does not automatically bring a better quality of life, so we have to do it in a more clever way, he said.

He has also sworn to fight rampant corruption.

Poor Nation

A third of Mongolians live below the poverty level, while a few have become very rich. Average per capita income is at about $400.

Enkhbayar wants to renegotiate terms with the International Monetary Fund to decrease the countrys massive debt and curb the inflation of the national currency, the togrog.

Human Rights activists will be keeping a close eye on his tactics. They fear that Mongolia may lose some of its hard-won press and religious freedoms.

But Enkhbayar insists that his communists are a different breed.

These are not some monsters that have come to power but people who speak the same language, he said. We just want to live in a civilized, developed and democratic society.