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Clinton in Mongolia as parties dispute vote results

10 july 2012, 10:37
0
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Mongolia Monday as part of an Asian tour aimed at promoting democracy, as local politicians were locked in dispute over recent elections, AFPv reports.

Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj has called on all parties to agree on forming a ruling coalition, after official results showed the opposition Democratic Party won most seats, but not enough for a majority.

There have been days of unease since the June 28 elections in which some parties said a new automated voting system to elect the Great Hural, Mongolia's 76-member parliament, had failed.

"The secretary is going to be very clear that we celebrate a succession of successful elections in Mongolia," a top State Department official told reporters travelling with Clinton.

"In the aftermath of this recent election, the international community is watching in terms of how the rule of law is applied, and I think we are looking forward to very substantive discussions with the key players inside the country about where things currently stand," he added, asking to remain anonymous.

Mongolia, sandwiched between Russia and China, ended seven decades of Soviet-backed rule in 1990 and has since undergone a relatively peaceful and successful transition into a stable democracy.

However corruption is generally recognised as a major problem in Mongolian politics, and disputes over the previous parliamentary elections in 2008 triggered riots that left four people dead.

According to results posted on the president's website, the Democratic Party came out on top in last month's election, winning 31 parliamentary seats, while the ruling Mongolian People's Party (MPP) took 25 seats.

The Democratic Party is now looking to form a ruling coalition, while the MPP has led the protests against the automated voting system.

A spokesman for the Democratic Party told AFP on Monday it was hopeful of securing support from one of the minor parties, but that a partnership was not likely to be announced until next month.

"I think that the secretary of state's even brief visit to Mongolia comes at a crucial time in fashioning a new government coalition," former US ambassador to Mongolia Alphonse La Porta told AFP.

"(It is) an opportunity to underscore for all Mongolians the importance of good governance and political stability."

Clinton was to meet with Elbegdorj on Monday, and deliver remarks to an International Women's Leadership forum being held in the capital, Ulan Bator.

She was also to address events focused on new and emerging democracies.

Elbegdorj was a key leader of the peaceful 1990 revolution that ended the Soviet era.

The country's economy grew 17.3 percent last year due to a stunning mining boom.

This has seen some of the world's biggest mining firms move in to exploit copper, coal and gold reserves estimated to be worth more than $1 trillion.

Last month's vote had been largely seen as a referendum on how to share out the nation's untapped wealth among its 2.8 million people.

Clinton's trip comes after US Vice President Joe Biden in August last year became the most senior American leader to visit Mongolia since 2005.

Biden's visit took place only months after Elbegdorj promised to give US companies a role in the booming energy sector.

While Mongolian leaders have pursued a careful foreign policy that does not alienate either Russia or China, they have also sought closer ties with the United States.

Last year US mining giant Peabody Energy said it was among the firms chosen to help develop a section of the Tavan Tolgoi coal mine in the Gobi desert -- one of the world's largest coal fields with 6.4 billion tonnes of reserves.

Later reports said however the deal was still under negotiation.

Clinton arrived in Ulan Bator from Tokyo, where she used a global forum on Sunday to make a powerful plea for the rights of women in Afghanistan.

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