Mongolian voters cast ballots for president
May 18, 1997
Web posted at: 10:26 a.m. EDT (1426 GMT)
ULAN BATOR, Mongolia (CNN) -- Mongolians voted Sunday in a
presidential election that could prove to be a turning point
for the young democracy as it forges ahead with capitalism
and away from its communist past.
More than half of the 1.1 million eligible voters had cast
their ballots with still five hours left before polls closed
at 10 p.m. (1300 GMT), election officials said. Outlying
voter districts of the capital reported turnout to be well
over 70 percent.
Results were expected by Monday at the earliest.
The two top candidates -- President Punsalmaagiin Ochirbat of
the Democratic Union Coalition and rival Natsagiin Bagabandi
of the opposition Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party --
both want to continue moving Mongolia toward capitalism, but
at different speeds.
Ochirbat has pushed for a brisk capitalistic transformation
so that Mongolia can fully adopt a market economy by 2000.
Bagabandi wants to slow the pace of reform for the sake of
One in five Mongolians lives below the official poverty line
with an income of $10 a month. An estimated 200,000 people
are unemployed in the nation of 2.2 million. Inflation is
running at about 30 percent.
A recent opinion poll showed Bagabandi held a slight edge
over the incumbent, with 51 percent support to 44 percent
for Ochirbat. A third candidate, Jambiin Gombojav of the
Mongolian Traditional United Party, lagged far behind.
Mongolia is a sprawling country sandwiched between Russia and
China. It abandoned communism in 1990, and Ochirbat became
the country's first directly elected president in June 1993.
More recently, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party,
the former communist group that had ruled parliament for 75
years, lost power last year after opposition parties forged
alliances and won a landslide victory.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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