Ukhnaa Khurelsukh, who was forced to resign as prime minister after protests earlier this year, will replace incumbent Khaltmaa Battulga who was denied an opportunity to seek re-election.

Ukhnaa Khurelsukh, presidential candidate of the Mongolian People's Party, attends a campaign rally ahead of the presidential election, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia June 5, 2021.
Ukhnaa Khurelsukh, presidential candidate of the Mongolian People's Party, attends a campaign rally ahead of the presidential election, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia June 5, 2021. (Reuters)

Former Mongolian prime minister Ukhnaa Khurelsukh has become the country's sixth democratically elected president, further consolidating the power of the ruling Mongolian People's Party (MPP).

Khurelsukh, who was forced to resign as prime minister after protests earlier this year, had an insurmountable lead over Sodnomzundui Erdene of the opposition Democratic Party with most of the votes tallied in a national election.

He will replace incumbent Khaltmaa Battulga, who was denied an opportunity to seek re-election following controversial changes to Mongolia's constitution that restricted presidents to one term in office.

Khurelsukh's victory follows a low-key campaign marred by Covid-19 restrictions. Most outdoor events were cancelled on Saturday after the outsider candidate Dangaasuren Enkhbat of the National Labor Party tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mongolia's hybrid political system gives its elected parliament the right to appoint governments and decide policy, but the president has the power to veto legislation and hire and fire judges.

With the presidency often controlled by the opposition party, the division of power has created political deadlock that some believe has held back Mongolia's development.

READ MORE: Mongolian opposition coalition collapses

Khurelsukh's election is expected to give the MPP more control over the levers of power, though he is obliged to relinquish his party affiliation as soon as he takes office.

The Democratic Party campaigned under the slogan "Mongolia without Dictatorship," and Erdene warned that the country was sliding towards a one-party state.

It remains unclear what the MPP's consolidation of power will mean for Mongolia’s biggest foreign investment project, the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine run by Rio Tinto, which the government in Ulaanbaatar has sought to renegotiate as construction costs surge.

Source: Reuters