The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) undertook a Needs Assessment Mission (NAM) in Mongolia from April 5 through 8 upon the invitation of Mongolian authorities to observe the June 29 parliamentary elections, and published a needs assessment report based on their mission’s initial findings.
The NAM included Steven Martin, OSCE/ODIHR Senior Adviser on New Voting Technologies, and Ulvi Akhundlu, OSCE/ODIHR Election Adviser. The purpose of the mission was to assess the pre-election environment and the preparations for the elections.
Mongolia is a parliamentary republic with legislative powers vested in the 76-member unicameral State Great Khural (Parliament) elected for a four-year term. Executive power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister.
Parliament confirms the appointment of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers. The President serves as the head of state and holds certain limited powers. Overall, the legal framework provides an adequate basis for conducting democratic elections. The 2016 parliamentary elections will be conducted under a new Election Law adopted in December 2015.
The new Election Law combines multiple laws, including those for presidential, parliamentary, and province and city elections. Some changes, including those on electoral dispute resolution, partly address previous OSCE/ODIHR recommendations. The elections will be administered by four levels of election administration, headed by the General Election Commission (GEC). Commission members at all levels are appointed from among civil servants.
While the majority of OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors expressed general confidence in the GEC, specific reservations were noted concerning election day operations, including on the use of electronic vote counting equipment and the capacity to concurrently manage parliamentary, provincial, and city elections.
Citizens over the age of 18 years are eligible to vote, except for those declared legally incapacitated by a court decision or those who are imprisoned. Voter registration is passive and based on permanent residence in Mongolia according to the civil registry.
Biometric identification cards have been in use since 2010, and authorities estimate that up to 98 percent of the population possess the cards. Preliminary voter lists were published online on March 1. Most stakeholders expressed support for biometric registration and general confidence in the accuracy of voter lists.
Eligible voters over 25 years of age can be nominated as candidates by a political party, a coalition of parties, or run independently. To contest the elections, parties and coalitions are required to have their election platforms pre-approved by the National Audit Office (NAO) and to include a minimum of 30 percent of candidates of each gender on the lists.
Campaign finance is regulated by detailed legislation that contains provisions on permitted forms of contributions and sets expenditure limits for each type of election. New legislation tasks the NAO with oversight responsibilities, including auditing contestants’ financial reports, as well as sanctioning authority.
OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors indicated that newly introduced regulations and their implementation could benefit from review. The official campaign period runs for 18 days up to the day before election day and is extensively regulated. While parties generally noted their ability to campaign freely, some expressed concerns about the short campaign period, potential intimidation of candidates and pressure on voters, as well as possible misuse of administrative resources.
Mongolia has a diverse media landscape that allows for certain pluralism. Most OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors highlighted the media’s political polarization as well as the lack of transparency and high concentration of media ownership. While comprehensive legislation on broadcasters is lacking, the Election Law contains a number of provisions governing media coverage during elections, including with regard to free-of-charge and equal coverage of parties and coalitions by the public service broadcaster.
Compliance is regulated by the GEC and the Communications Regulatory Commission, which were noted by OSCE/ODIHR interlocutors as lacking sufficient regulatory oversight to function effectively.
Complaints and appeals can be filed by a broad range of electoral stakeholders, and will be reviewed by various bodies depending on the issue. The new Election Law shortened the timeframes for resolution of election-related complaints and clarified the jurisdiction of different types of complaints.
The Election Law provides for observation of the electoral process by international and citizen organizations and representatives of electoral contestants. Political parties and some citizen observation organizations that the OSCE/ODIHR NAM met with highlighted the need and expressed their intention to deploy observers throughout the country on election day.
The majority of OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors expressed a certain level of confidence in the electoral administration. However, particular concern was raised with the new legal framework and possible gaps and shortcomings, the conduct of the campaign, media coverage, and the use of technology for counting and tabulation.
While some OSCE/ODIHR recommendations have been considered, a number remain unaddressed. Overall, interlocutors that the OSCE/ODIHR NAM met with highlighted the benefit of OSCE/ODIHR election observation in contributing to building confidence in the electoral process.
Many underscored the need to observe the upcoming elections with a countrywide presence both during the campaign and on election day. The OSCE/ODIHR NAM recommends the deployment of an Election Observation Mission for the June 29 parliamentary elections. In addition to a core team of experts, the OSCE/ODIHR NAM recommends the participation of 22 long-term observers from OSCE participating states to follow the electoral process countrywide, and 300 short-term observers to follow election day proceedings. In line with OSCE/ODIHR’s standard methodology, the elections in Mongolia should include a media monitoring element.