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Mongolia government fights to survive after court ruling

December 6, 2000
Web posted at: 9:09 PM HKT (1309 GMT)

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia (Reuters) -- Mongolia's ruling party on Wednesday admitted its new government had been formed illegally but said it would try to amend the constitution in order to retain the Cabinet.

The statement was the first official reaction to last week's constitutional court ruling that said changes to the constitution under which the formerly communist Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) appointed its Cabinet were illegal.

The constitutional amendments made last year govern election procedures for Cabinet positions and allow government members to simultaneously hold seats in parliament.

The MPRP, which won 72 out of 76 seats in parliamentary elections in July this year, pushed ahead to appoint its new Cabinet according to the new rules despite protests from the tiny opposition.

The court had said Prime Minister Nambariin Enkhbayar and several of his ministers would have to chose between their government and parliamentary jobs.

But an MPRP spokesman said the party hoped to avoid resignations from either the Cabinet or parliament by re-submitting the constitutional amendments to the president and the constitutional court for approval.

"The party reviewed the constitutional court decision and admitted there had been a mistake. Therefore the amendments have been submitted to a new process," MPRP spokesman Myagmar told Reuters.

"They considered several options but concluded there was no need to leave any parliament seats," he said.

Enkhbayar was quoted in local media as saying resignations from the Cabinet or parliament could lead to political instability and that the problem should be resolved in one to two weeks.

A government spokesman said that in the intervening period the cabinet would not pass any major decisions and that scheduled visits by government and parliament members out of the capital had been cancelled.

The court, which had initially declared the constitutional changes illegal in March, was later blocked from making a final verdict when the MPRP-dominated parliament refused to debate the issue -- the next step in the legal process.

Parliament's decision prompted angry protests from the opposition and local media, and raised fears that the MPRP, which ruled for seven decades under Soviet patronage, would use its huge majority to return to de facto one-party rule.

The court was eventually able to proceed with the case at the request of several private citizens, including opposition supporters.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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