Will Authority protect its members involved in cases?
- By Misheel Lkhasuren -
- Feb 08,2023
At a time when major social issues such as constitutional amendments and public consultative ballot are being discussed, the cases of members of Parliament are still being revealed. However, it is not clear whether Parliament will strip their of parliamentary immunity.
Minister of Labor and Social Protection and member of Parliament T.Ayursaikhan was charged in connection with the coal theft allegations. On February 7, he requested to resign from the position of member of Parliament and minister of labor and social protection. He wrote on his social media account, “It has been some time since a well-known member of Parliament made a report linking me to the coal case. An organized activity aimed at lowering my reputation was carried out on social media. There is also great doubt and suspicion among the public. I would like to waive the authority and inviolability of a member of Parliament and get properly investigated without any influence or hindrance from my position and establish my truth before the law and the court. This issue is not only for me, but also for the reputation of the government, so in order to prevent this, it is appropriate to voluntarily resign from the position of a member of Parliament and Cabinet.”
Lawmaker J.Munkhbat also submitted his resignation request to Speaker of Parliament G.Zandanshatar. The law enforcement agency also approved a resolution to prosecute him in connection with the case. The Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC) announced that it has started investigating 17 politicians and politically influential people due to the coal theft cases. Of these, seven are members of Parliament. Last week, a resolution was approved to indict one of them, member of Parliament D.Bat-Erdene. Currently, four parliamentarians received a resolution from the law enforcement agency in connection with the coal case.
The number of lawmakers involved in the coal theft case is increasing day by day, and they have a “group” in Parliament. There is no guarantee that the composition of the “group” will not expand in the future. Moreover, it cannot be ruled out that the number of accused members will increase. There are reports that the competent authority will soon submit its proposal to suspend their parliamentary immunity to the speaker. On top of that, J.Munkhbat and T.Ayursaikhan may not be the only members to submit an application to resign.
Last spring, when the scandal surrounding the non-performing loans of Development Bank of Mongolia was in full swing, Parliament reviewed the cases of legislators G.Amartuvshin, Kh.Gankhuyag, Yo.Baatarbileg and N.Altankhuyag. Prosecutor-General of Mongolia B.Jargalsaikhan proposed Speaker of Parliament G.Zandanshatar to suspend their mandates to properly investigate them. In specific, IAAC submitted a proposal to prosecute N.Altankhuyag on the suspicion of misappropriating a 1.8 trillion MNT loan from Development Bank and devaluing bond funds. During an investigation of the bank’s non-performing loans, the Investigative Department of the authority also discovered that parliamentarian Yo.Baatarbileg had accepted bribes from others and launched an investigation into this case. Meanwhile, G.Amartuvshin has been under scrutiny for allegedly issuing a loan of 33 billion MNT to a company affiliated with legislator Kh.Gankhuyag while serving as the director of Development Bank.
Parliament discussed this issue for more than five hours behind closed doors but ultimately rejected it. At that time, they explained that these members of Parliament can be investigated while they are members. However, the case involving them was transferred to the court stage. In other words, the court will soon consider the guilt of the four accused members in the Development Bank case.
So far, eight members are being accused in the Development Bank and coal theft allegations. Combined with those whose names were announced, a total of 13 members were connected to the cases. There is no Parliament in Mongolian history where so many members faced the risk of being involved in cases, being charged, being stripped of their duties, or having their powers suspended or even recalled. This may lead to disruption of the Parliament’s law-making process and normal working conditions.
In particular, whether or not to amend the Constitution has recently attracted public’s attention. There is a legal limit on when the Constitution can be debated, so there is no other option for Parliament than to talk about amendments to the Constitution now.
In accordance with the Constitution and other laws, it is prohibited to approve amendments to the Constitution no less than six months before regular elections of Parliament. In other words, amendments to the Constitution can be approved within this year. Most importantly, it must be approved by a vote of at least three-fourths of all members of Parliament. Amendments to the Constitution must be made with the support of at least 57 members. This is the highest threshold for the approval of laws by Parliament of Mongolia. For instance, it is stipulated that the decision to dissolve Parliament or amend the Constitution should be made with the support of at least two-thirds of all members.
If the “issue” of the above-mentioned 13 members deepens, their parliamentary immunity will be suspended, or they will be recalled. Because only three of the 13 named members – D.Bat-Erdene, A.Adiyasuren,and N.Altankhuyag – are not from the ruling party, but from the minority or the opposition. A total of 10 members of the Mongolian People’s Party, which forms the majority, were involved in theft, corruption and official cases.
T.Dorjkhand, elected from the HUN Party, and 10 members of the Democratic Party (including D.Ganbat, who does not agree with his party members and S.Ganbaatar) will not probably support the amendments to the Constitution and boycott its discussion and plenary session of Parliament. This time, Parliament is in such a critical and tragic situation because of its members.
Of course, the authorities take all this into account and do not let their members go. Moreover, our politicians avoid scrutiny and hide behind their immunity. Every Parliament has always had an interest in protecting and retaining its members. In the past, Parliament once made a decision not to suspend the powers of D.Gantulga and D.Murat, who were involved in violence cases. However, it may be closer to the truth to say that influential people whose names are linked to illegal and unfair things are protected by their parties and leaders.
That’s why they never told the members involved in the case, “Get investigated and clear your name and come back.” On the other hand, cases involving politicians and high-ranking officials are protected by legal institutions and courts, and in the end, it can be said that a “standard” has already been established where no one is charged or held accountable. But this time, Parliament will accept J.Munkhbat’s request to be released from parliamentary membership. This is of little help to save the name and face of both the members who submitted the application and Parliament, which will accept and approve it.
Under Clause 2 of Article 10.1 of the Act of Parliament, which stipulates, “If Parliament accepts that a parliamentarian submitted his or her request for suspension of immunity due to valid reasons, his or her term of office will be terminated prematurely,” member of Parliament J.Munkhbat submitted a request to suspend his parliamentary immunity to Speaker of Parliament G.Zandanshatar on January 30.
He stated on his request, “Firstly, my mother need medical treatment abroad. Secondly, some people are systematically slandering me on social media regarding the concession, casino and coal trade ‘theft’ issues. With this request, I express that I am ready to get investigated by the legal authorities in connection with these issues without hiding behind the immunity of a member of Parliament.”
In accordance with the law, parliamentary plenary session decides whether to suspend immunity of a lawmaker based on conclusions and opinions of the Standing Committee on State Structure.
There are many people who suspect that he submitted his request ahead of the prosecutor’s request to suspend his powers. N.Nomtoibayar, who was elected as a member of Parliament for 2016 to 2020, took a similar step. He was found guilty of giving privileges to others by abusing power, including ordering the implementation of 29 projects and programs. More specifically, when he was working as the minister of labor and social protection, an investigation was started in connection with the case on the grounds that he was negligent in his duties, and in the end, he had no choice but to suspend the powers of the member of Parliament.
In this regard, the prosecutor general submitted his proposal to Parliament. It is said that he submitted his application to be released almost in line with the general prosecutor’s proposal.
However, after J.Munkhbat and T.Ayursaikhan, how many members will request to strip their parliamentary immunity, and how their requests will be resolved, will become clear after the authorities’ careful “calculations”.