Most voters expect a two-horse race between the ruling Mongolian People's Party and the Democratic Party. But the breakaway Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party could win enough votes to force a second round of voting.

All three presidential candidates have promised to pull the country out of its current crisis.
All three presidential candidates have promised to pull the country out of its current crisis.

Mongolians cast their votes on Monday in a presidential election seen as a referendum on the government's economic recovery plans and China's role in the country.

The election has been run amid corruption allegations against all three candidates vying for the presidency of Mongolia, a remote, resource-rich land known as the birthplace of Mongol emperor Genghis Khan.

Some disgruntled voters left their ballot papers blank in protest.

"I really wanted to participate, and do something, but I didn't want to vote for any of the three candidates," Khishigjargal, a 22-year old translator, said after leaving her ballot blank at a polling station in the capital Ulaanbaatar.

Most voters expect a two-horse race between the ruling Mongolian People's Party (MPP) candidate Miyeegombo Enkhbold, an investment-friendly career politician, and former martial arts star and resource nationalist Khaltmaa Battulga of the opposition Democratic Party.

But Sainkhuu Ganbaatar, of the breakaway Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP), could win enough votes to force a second round in two weeks.

Mongolia is a parliamentary democracy and elected a new government last year.

The presidential vote will serve as a crucial barometer of public opinion as the ruling MPP tries to steer the country out of an economic crisis.

Economic crisis

Once Asia's fastest-growing economy, Mongolia has seen foreign investment and commodity export earnings collapse, leaving it struggling to pay debts following years of generous government spending.

The new government secured a $5.5 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund in May after implementing austerity measures.

"The electorate is not happy with IMF taxes and cuts," said Dale Choi, analyst and chief executive of the Altan Bumba Financial Group.

"But the MPP campaigned hard to explain why Mongolia is where it is now."

Under Mongolia's parliamentary system, the prime minister runs the government but the president has powers to veto legislation and make judicial appointments.

All three presidential candidates have promised to pull the country out of its current crisis, restore the stagnant economy to its former "boom" status, and reassess ties with neighbours, including China.

Source: Reuters