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Voters called to elect their new president

Latest update : 2009-05-25

Mongolians are choosing between Nambaryn Enkhbayar of the ruling MPRP party and Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj from the Democratic Party in presidential elections on Sunday. A total of 27 teams of international observers are overseeing the voting process.

AFP - Voters in Mongolia went to the polls Sunday to choose a new president less than a year after allegations of vote-rigging in parliamentary elections triggered deadly riots.

The violence last July shocked a nation that prides itself for having emerged from communism in 1990 after a peaceful revolution, and inhabitants of the capital Ulan Bator voiced their concern over the potential for more unrest.

"I hope there won't be riots this time," said Garda, a 75-year-old retiree who voted for incumbent Nambaryn Enkhbayar of the ex-communist Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP).

"He did a great job in the past four years and he needs time to finish what he started," he said.

But for Tseren, a 32-year-old businesswoman who like many Mongolians just uses one name, unrest was a strong possibility.

"I think we should have riots if Enkhbayar wins because he plays a dirty game," she said on her way to vote for Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, the ex-leader of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) and the only other candidate.

"I hate Elbegdorj, but we have to have change," she added.

Financial issues are playing a major role in the elections in Mongolia -- a country sandwiched between Russia and China, where more than one third of the population lives below the poverty line.

The global economic crisis has exacerbated problems as it has led to plummeting mineral prices in a nation that relies heavily on its mining deposits, which include copper, coal and gold.

The crisis has led to a rise in unemployment and a slowdown in the construction industry. The average salary here is only 200 dollars a month.

Mongolians also see little difference between the two candidates.

This is partly because their respective parties have entered into a coalition in parliament and therefore pursue similar policies on a day-to-day basis.

Early risers, mainly older people in traditional silk coats, started making their way to polling stations in Ulan Bator as soon as they opened at 7:00 am (2300 GMT Saturday).

Small queues began to form at voting booths around the capital as the day progressed.

Elections in Mongolia -- one of the world's youngest democracies -- are routinely plagued by rumours of fraud and bribery.

Nearly two thirds of respondents questioned in a poll on popular website said the polls would be tainted by corruption.

In an attempt to prevent electoral fraud, Mongolians for the first time were all required to present a special voter card when entering polling booths, as well as their identity documents.

A total of 27 teams of observers from the United States and international agencies were also touring the polling booths of Ulan Bator, according to a statement released by the Asia Foundation, a non-profit organisation.

Mongolia shook off communist rule in 1990 without a shot being fired, and the first democratic elections were held in 1992.

The MPRP ruled the country during the country's seven decades as a Soviet satellite.

Polling places were due to close at 10:00 pm.

Date created : 2009-05-24