What do we owe you, Mr. President?

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It was only a few days ago when almost everyone seemed to appreciative President Kh.Battulga’s gestures for China. All the newspaper headlines seemed to emphasize that he is the first president to visit the country in person since the COVID-19 outbreak. Mongolians were proud to learn that 30,000 sheep would be gifted to China in their time of need. However, it’s still not clear yet that when and how the sheep would be delivered to China. In the meantime, individuals, local mayors, and businesses started announcing that they are donating sheep to the president for the gift.

Even as the first “problem” the president brought to our attention is not finalized, the second one has already come about. On March 25, an address to the people of Mongolia from President Kh. Battulga was published on the official web page of the President’s Office of Mongolia. It included the following six “challenges”:

  1. To make amendments to the state budget.
  2. To postpone the upcoming parliamentary election and save the money planned on it.
  3. To prepare a special fund against the crisis in order to support factories, legal entities, and individual business owners.
  4. To prepare a plan to provide amenity supplies to all citizens, especially children.
  5. To discuss issue number four at the National Security Council and establish a small but professional commission to deal with the crisis.
  6. To centralize state management to adjust it into the crisis situation. As a sidenote, this is not dictatorship at all, but a necessary measure.

It further stated, “I am not trying to scare my people using a crisis. I am only speaking the truth to confront and overcome an unavoidable danger. … It could be and will likely be discussed at and decided by Parliament, government and the National Security Council. However, I consider that it would not be appropriate not to tell this to my people, hence, I am issuing this address to you.” The president stated that it’s for the good of the people of Mongolia.

But the facts are not really on his side. Many have lost their faith towards him given precedents that he or his office has set against citizens by filing offence suits upon receiving critiques.

Out of these six calls to action, number two and six must be paid very close attention to and are the matters we citizens should not agree with, unless in a time of war. In Article 22.1 of the Constitution, it says, “If extraordinary circumstances arising from sudden calamities in the whole or part of the country or imposition of martial law or outbreak of public disorder prevent regular general elections from being held, Parliament shall retain its mandate until extraordinary circumstances cease.”

However, as of now, there are only 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19, all of the infected people are those who were evacuated from countries affected by the virus, and no cases of transmission within the country has been registered to date. In other words, there’s no reasonable ground to call for postponement of the elections according to the Constitution of Mongolia.

Also, issuing an “address” or “challenge” like this is not in the power of the president of Mongolia given by the Constitution. The president shall only issue a decree and/or an order according to the Constitution and the law that specifies the president’s legal status in detail.

Other reasons why we, citizens, must object to this so-called “an address from the president” is that there is no guarantee that the election won’t be postponed again and again. We have a perfect example of the by-election in Khentii Province not being held after a former member of Parliament D.Gantulga resigned from his post in 2019. The by-election for his seat in Parliament still has not taken a place.

At this moment, it’s extremely hard to believe that it is a coincidence that the Constitutional Court is refusing to convene. On March 11, the chairwoman of the Press and Public Relations Department of the court said in an interview that the court is following the guidance given by the government in relation to the spread of the virus. She said that a trial or a hearing at the Constitutional Court could be considered a public event, which it obviously is not and not convening on the critical issue might possibly be an indirect violation of citizens’ rights to justice. Such an unreasonable explanation gives us a reason to believe that these, possibly political movements, is not a coincidence.

Therefore, the people of Mongolia must be very careful when considering whether or not to show any kind of supports towards the president’s call to action. It’s a pity to see that the people in power are trying to politicize matters even in this very difficult time while governments of Canada, UK, Germany, and others are offering financial and other kinds of support to its citizens and companies to help them overcome this difficult time with minimum losses.

It is absolutely true that the health of the people must be a foremost concern. However, we must not loosen our attention to this dynamic of power and must not let power holders and politicians to take advantage of this difficult time.

Myagmardorj Buyanjargal
Myagmardorj is a freelance writer and certified translator who holds a Bachelor of Law Degree from the National University of Mongolia and Bachelor of Science Degree in engineering in mining technology from the Mongolian University of Science and Technology.