DP’s internal clash escalates

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         While the dispute between the two leaders of the Democratic Party (DP) has yet to see a resolution, the issue of two election committees of the party arose. Both committees held separate press conferences to call the other illegitimate on March 11.

On Tuesday, the Internal Election Committee (IEC) led by I.Munkhjargal reported that the total cost of the DP chairship election is 1.1 billion MNT, and this money must be paid by running candidates.

Each of the 16 people who met the requirements to run for the party chair would pay 74.7 million MNT in election deposit within 24 hours, but some of them withdrew their names, increasing the amount to 93.4 million MNT for each candidate as of March 9. This means the election committee may demand more money from candidates. Because those who fail to pay within the deadline will have to withdraw their candidacies, the remaining candidates will have to make up 1.1 billion MNT for election costs. Registration of candidates for the party chairperson election took place on March 4 and 5, while the nominees will campaign from March 12 to 26. The committee scheduled the polling day for March 28.

However, on March 10, the IEC led by Kh.Altankhuyag held a press briefing, stating that the seal of the IEC used by I.Munkhjargal is invalid. Moreover, they noted that the DP chairship election is scheduled for April 25, and the election deposit is 35 million MNT for each candidate.

Head of the DP Secretariat A.Tserenbat said, “This election will be held electronically. Therefore, each candidate will pay a deposit of 35 million MNT, regardless of the number of candidates.”

“In addition to the party chairship election, based on Resolution No. 3 of the IEC of February 24, 2021, by-election of the National Policy Committee (NPC) of the party and elections for mid-level party leaders will be held on March 17. Registration of candidates for the party chairperson election will take place from March 19 to 20. In accordance with Resolution No. 9 of the IEC and Article of the Party General Rule, it was decided to receive 35 million MNT from a candidate running for the post of party chair, while candidates running for chair of the DP of Ulaanbaatar will pay 25 million MNT,” Kh.Altankhuyag said.

Deputy Head of the IEC L.Narmandakh clarified whether there are really two party election committees. She said, “The IEC is not divided. The internal problems of the party are their own problem. We are resolving issues and holding elections within
the framework of the party rules and regulations. On February 24, 2021, 13 members and former Head of the IEC I.Munkhjargal signed Resolution No. 3 of the IEC. The four-year mandate of the IEC headed by I.Munkhjargal has ended. As a result, the NPC changed one-third of its committee members. It can be understood that 10 of the old members remained and five new members were appointed.”

Due to the issue of two election committees, some candidates do not know which account to place their candidacy deposit to. Particularly, former lawmaker Ts.Oyungerel said, “In order to transfer money to an undisputed account, I sent a formal request to the IEC, requesting to provide a seal information with the state registration guarantee.” She also said through her Facebook account that she sent an official letter to Khas Bank asking for clarification on the reliability of the IEC’s account.

Yesterday, Leader of the DP S.Erdene reported that Congress of the DP will be held on May 2, and during the Congress, he will hand over the party seal to the newly elected chair. “Internal elections are being organized within the framework of the party’s general rule. There are no divisions within the DP,” he said.

On the same day, former Mayor of Ulaanbaatar E.Bat-Uul announced that he will compete for the DP chair. He said, “Due to the irresponsible actions of the Supreme Court, there is a conflict within the DP. If this issue is not resolved, there will be risks in the upcoming presidential and 2024 elections for DP.”

DP member Ts.Oyundari warned Ts.Tuvaan and I.Munkhjargal that if their activities do not stop, it will become a crime under the Criminal Code.

In addition to this incomprehensibility, the issue of deposit has been discussed again. Less than a year ago, DP, which collected 100 million MNT as election deposit from its candidates in the parliamentary election, have not changed this approach when electing its chairperson.

In fact, after the 2020 parliamentary election, DP’s IEC decided not to receive deposits and fees from candidates for the party’s chairship election.

Chairman of DP S.Erdene, who has led his party to another landslide loss in the elections, handed over the party seal to Ts.Tuvaan, who was deputy chairman of the party at that time. At the time, I.Munkhjargal said, “No deposit or fee will
be received from a DP candidate. Only expenses audited by an external auditing organization shall be reimbursed.” This was due to criticisms from the people that DP received a deposit of 100 million MNT from the party’s candidates seeking to run for the parliamentary election, and backed away from democracy and trampled on their values.

Although the party has not demanded a deposit of 100 million MNT from those seeking to run for the party’s chairship, both committees demanded to 93.4 million MNT and 35 million MNT, respectively.

Candidate S.Erdenebold asked the IEC to make expenses of this election transparent and to create an opportunity to raise 93.4 million MNT openly. In other words, he demanded to collect the money in stages, not within 24 hours.

Ts.Oyungerel said, “Politics does not have to be a tough game. I am competing to soften the ‘hard game’ within DP. As of March 9, 810 individuals and organizations donated money to me. Several candidates withdrew their names due to the election deposit amount. In a democracy, a candidate should not withdraw because of money. The monetary threshold is destroying our internal democracy. This is wrong. I hoped that this election would be very smart and cost-effective, but it did not work out.”

Of course, elections at any level require certain costs. For example, DP, which has branches and committees in 330 soums, the capital city and districts, will need money for campaign and workforce to get a vote from its 200,000 members. It is not wrong to have these costs be covered by candidates. However, it is a disgrace for DP to set a very high monetary threshold for those who want to run for the party leadership. 

It is possible not to receive large sums of money from candidates. Both election committees stated that candidates will campaign through the media only. In other words, candidates will not hold meetings with voters mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the 2016 election defeat, five candidates ran for the DP chairship. At the time, one of the candidates, J.Batzandan, reported that the party was demanding 250 million MNT from each candidate, expressing his protest. However, the leadership of the IEC denied the claim at the time.

Moreover, DP announced internal elections in 2017 and demanded a deposit of 3 million MNT for the NPC’s chairship election, 15 million MNT for the election of the party committee chairperson in rural areas, 90 million MNT for chair of the DP branch of the capital city, and 20 million MNT for a district party chairship. In addition to the fees, they took deposits from candidates for these positions.

Historically, DP also received a deposit of 3 million MNT from candidates for membership of the NPC, and a deposit of 1.5 million MNT for membership of the DP branch of Ulaanbaatar.

This is a time when the amount of deposits and fees were increased 6 to 90 folds, and an official monetary threshold was set for each position. In the past, in order to compete for a membership of the NPC, a deposit of 1 million MNT was paid, and if a candidate could not become a member, the deposit was returned. Moreover, the election fee of 15,000 MNT was previously deducted from the deposit. There was also a non-payment procedure for running for chair of the party committee of the capital city.

It seems that only DP has the “courage” not to refuse election deposits and fees, but to demand more money. In this situation, it is extremely difficult for any party or business to be independent of people with money. Increasing monetary influence and factors will not save DP, whose divide grows evermore wider by the day.

The party is still slit, following S.Erdene and Ts.Tuvaan’s spiteful disputes. In accordance with the decision of the IEC, newly formed by the NPC, which was chaired by S.Erdene, voting will take place on April 25. Eventually, there may be two party leaders and two seals elected through two separate elections, with both calling the other illegitimate.

Misheel Lkhasuren