X Close

Emerging Subjects Blog


Emerging Subjects of the New Economy: Tracing Economic Growth in Mongolia


The Price of an Election: Split hopes and political ambivalence in the ger districts of Ulaanbaatar

By uczipm0, on 13 July 2017

This post was written by Liz Fox, a UCL ESRC-funded anthropology PhD candidate affiliated to the Emerging Subjects project.


[The material for this blog post was collected from a variety of sources that have been anonymised. For the privacy and safety of my many interlocutors, their stories have been aggregated. It does not refer to any specific place or people.]

“Come quick! They’re giving money after all!” Baatar rushed into the ger where his relatives were sitting, discussing the Mongolian parliamentary election that was taking place that day. The road to the election had been both long and disappointing and all present were in agreement that it had been the “dirtiest” election the country had seen in its 26 years of democracy. From the start there was mudslinging, or as it is known in Mongolian, “black PR” (har pr). Each of the three presidential candidates had been accused of one scandal or another, whether it was Ganbaatar’s (of the MAHN, or Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party) 50,000 KRW bribe from the Moon religious group, Battulga’s (of the AN, or Democratic Party) 44 companies and messy family life, including a Russian wife and a son connected to drugs, or Enkhbold’s (of the MAN, or Mongolian People’s Party) selling of land when he was UB mayor, his feature in two secretly-filmed viral videos that tie him to bribery and the selling of government positions, and the accusations that he is actually Chinese. Indeed, when the candidates were announced, many Mongolians said there was no one to choose from, they are all as bad as each other and that it was an “unelectable election” (songuuldgui songuul).

I arrived in an Eastern ger district of Ulaanbaatar mere days before the first round election and learned that there had been an upswing in support for Ganbaatar, the Revolutionary Party’s Candidate. For an area that had preferred the MAN over the AN in the previous year’s parliamentary election, the outright rejection of the ruling party’s presidential candidate seemed surprising; and yet, Enkhbold was said to be the worst of the worst. Ganbaatar, the outsider candidate, had managed to differentiate himself in the eyes of ger district voters from the two big party candidates as being an honest and upstanding man. Similar to the popular support that Jawkhlan the singer had galvanised in the parliamentary election a year before, this year Ganbaatar was felt to have a “heart” for the people of Mongolia. Like Jawkhlan, Ganbaatar’s lack of high level education was even seen as a bonus: “What university did Chinggis Khaan graduate from, huh?” a middle-aged supporter asked.

Two nights before the election, a ger district-dwelling family and I sat in front of the TV in a small brick home, watching the final debate. The family were open with their criticisms, tutting and shaking their heads at almost everything Enkhbold and Battulga said. They spoke back to the figures on the television regularly with a “Shaaal hudlaa!” (What a liar!) or a sarcastic “Oo saihan yarij bn” (How nicely he speaks). In contrast, Ganbaatar’s earnest propositions were followed with resounding expressions of approval, “Yag zuw!”, “Unen shvv” or “Tiishdee”. It was clear that this election had become largely driven by emotion. For those on the margins who have seen 26 year of democracy lead only to increasing inequality and economic turmoil, the fat cats at the top eating the country’s natural bounty, sweet words and promises from wealthy politicians mean little. “They’re all the same,” people repeated, “they’ll say anything and then, when they’re elected, they’ll do nothing but eat”.

While there were rumours of cash hand outs in the run-up to the parliamentary election last year, politicians also used fairly “clean” techniques in their attempts to attract votes, such as building a new road or the distribution of the Tavan Tolgoi shares. This year, however, cash was flowing everywhere. Phone calls were made back and forth and what felt like hundreds of cars descended on the neighbourhood. Suddenly the call would go around, “the car is here!” there would be a rush to check for one’s ID card and four or five people at a time would leave the ger to meet the car. After the doors closed, each person would be handed a 20,000MNT note and told, “Vote for Enkhbold! After you’ve voted, bring your little white paper receipt back to us”. The passengers would then be dropped off a little distance from the local school that served as a polling station to avoid police detection. The party workers, temporary employees who stood to gain a 300,000 MNT salary for 20 days of work, would also receive payment according to the number of ‘white papers’ they collected from voters. In some areas, parties were offering 100,000MNT for 30 papers, in other areas it was 100,000 for 5. An instant economy of white papers then sprung up: people bartered over them, sold them to one another and told each other to deliver them to so-and-so. As matters unfolded on the ground, people were also glued to Facebook checking for news. A Democratic Party car carrying 120 million MNT to be distributed to voters in Western Mongolian provinces caused a stir. It was clear that both parties would do whatever it took to win.

Ger district families were quick to take advantage of the parties’ activities. Some relatives who live in the countryside but were visiting the city had wrongly heard that they could vote anywhere. Believing they could vote in Ulaanbaatar, they didn’t return to the countryside in time for the election. That, however, did not stop them from getting in the car and pledging to vote for Enkhbold in exchange for an easy 20,000MNT. A couple residents under the voting age of 18 were able to collect the money. Every person I know who took the MAN party’s money and voted, voted for Ganbaatar. Indeed, people took great satisfaction in having out-hustled the “hustlers” (luiwerchin) who had tried to buy their votes. Although the money was a bonus and everyone chased it, there remained some ambivalence and debate over whether it was truly clean. “They’ll say they bought us poor people’s votes cheaply,” one woman exclaimed passionately, the 20,000MNT note hidden in her clenched fist, “but they’re wrong! They didn’t buy anything. We didn’t even vote for their candidate. And anyway, why shouldn’t we take the money? They sit up there eating everything without a care for us out here. There’s nothing wrong with taking a little back from what’s been stolen from us!” While there was disappointment with the electoral proceedings, no one seemed completely cynical about the election itself. People voted for Ganbaatar with their hearts and truly hoped he would win, even as they worried that with the amount of money being splashed around by the big parties, their outsider candidate would have no chance.

Polls closed at 10pm and the election circus around the bus stop began to clear. People returned home to hear the 10 o’clock announcement of the early results. There was great shock and happiness when it became clear that Enkhbold had done poorly. The local area had indeed elected Ganbaatar, despite the payments, and the countryside relatives were relieved to see that their homeland had also supported Ganbaatar, without their votes. While the AN candidate Battulga lead the race, Ganbaatar’s strong showing looked like it would force a run-off election as no candidate would reach the minimum 50% of the vote. That prospect was incredibly exciting as people felt sure in a two-horse, second-round race Ganbaatar would win. The results continued to come it as the night progressed, the family remained glued to the television until around 2am. By that point, the picture seemed clear and the large extended family one by one fell asleep in their little brick home.

The shock upon awakening to hear that in the night Enkhbold had somehow overtaken Ganbaatar cannot be overstated. Apparently, one province’s election centre had lost power during the count and when the power was reconnected, the numbers favoured Enkhbold enough to push him ahead of Ganbaatar. In the ger district, it was universally considered a fraud and a lie. People felt for Ganbaatar, they argued he had run a clean race – unable to raise the funds to distribute the kinds of cash that the other two candidates threw around – and yet, or perhaps therefore, he had lost. Some days of confusion and dismay followed. There was debate over how exactly the second round would be organised, but eventually it became clear Ganbaatar had been cut from the race: the second round would have no clean candidate.

In the days between the first and second round elections, the only positive people could find in the situation was the possibility that the second round election might encourage even bigger cash hand-outs. Ger district residents had heard from countryside relatives that up to 50,000MNT per vote had been being distributed and were excited at the prospect another cash bonus. This hope, however, was only half the story. Politically-speaking, people remained committed to Ganbaatar, or at the very least committed against the two remaining candidates. A plan began to form to submit black ballots at the very least as a protest against Ganbaatar’s stolen election and perhaps even to force a third election with three new candidates.

Rumours continued to swirl about the dark methods by which Enkhbold would assure his own victory: apparently, his party workers would collect people’s registration numbers and then ‘hack’ the electronic voting machines to ensure that those votes would go to him. Indeed, two days before the election a relative arrived at the home asking the family to write down their registration numbers and promising to give them 20,000. As it happened only two siblings were home at the time, one 19, the other 23. What followed was a tense but jovial negotiation. Their uncle tried to use his relative authority to ‘encourage’ them to write down all the eligible family members’ ID numbers, while the other two slid between positions, sometimes deferring to their absent mother’s authority (their mother being the uncle’s elder sister) telling him to ask her, and other times insisting that they be given the money up front or that they would only sell for a higher price. Eventually the uncle left to try to collect the neighbours’ ID numbers, telling the two he would be back in the evening.

The morning of the election came and went without event. The previous day the ruling party had released a sudden notice that the ‘children’s money’ (20,000MNT/month per child) that had been stopped for all but the poorest families since February would suddenly be restored: the full amount being automatically deposited into people’s accounts. Queues at the bank reached into the hundreds. For the ger district family, this development was a disappointment. As a poor family they had been collecting the children’s money every month as a vital part of their monthly income. As such, the windfall that came to richer families did not come to them at all: further proof in fact that the ruling party didn’t care about the poorest citizens. It wasn’t until the evening until Baatar burst into the ger announcing that there would be pay-outs after all. This time no car came and the eligible voters walked to the polling station. A phone call told them to wait behind a small shop that sells second-hand clothes. Then a further call told them to go behind the school. A third call then told them to vote first and collect the money afterwards. The family duly deposited their blank ballots and then began to congregate with neighbours and relatives outside the polling station. Rumours spread this way and that, and yet no money appeared. A middle-aged man told me, “It’s sad isn’t it to see how we Mongolians will run after only 20,000MNT. But what can we do? We need the money and if they’re going to give it out why shouldn’t we have some?” Tired of waiting at the bus stop, people headed home. Eventually that night the money came: another 20,000MNT each.

Despite his efforts, both black and white, Enkhbold did not win the election. Battulga defeated him and will be inaugurated today (the 10th). Ger district residents seemed to have lost interest in politics the day after the election. Some people even said, “Maybe it would have been better if Enkhbold had won: what can a AN president do in the face of a majority MAN parliament?” People were proud of their blank ballots: around 100,000 were cast across the country, but not enough to force another election. For the most part, however, things returned to normal: politicians don’t care about the ger district and their chronic absence speaks louder than the occasional sweet words ger district resident’s hear around elections. Ger district residents resumed their lives, briefly 40,000MNT richer but without any hope that positive change would be on the horizon.



795 Responses to “The Price of an Election: Split hopes and political ambivalence in the ger districts of Ulaanbaatar”

  • 1
    spa massage in madhapur hyderabad wrote on 20 April 2023:

    we are providing body to body massage in madhapur hyderabad are the best techquinice for your glowing body.

  • 2
    Max Twine wrote on 20 April 2023:

    How many wheels are in the world? This is one of the most searched Google questions. Each year at least 16 billion auto queries are made, indicating that people want to know about their favorite type of transportation. The number of auto queries have been on the rise for more than ten years now, with many vehicles seeing record sales during their launches.

  • 3
    gclub royal888 wrote on 21 April 2023:

    gclub เว็บบาคาร่าและสล้อตที่ดีที่สุด ปรับปรุงใหม่เกมเยอะภาพสวย gclub royal888 ระบบ ฝาก-ถอน ออโต้ ใช้แค่เบอร์โทรล้อคอินระบบง่ายๆ ที่สำคัญเราคืนยอดเสีย 10% ทุกวันจันทร์ ไม่ติดเทริน์ถอนออกได้เลยค่ะ

  • 4
    best male to male massage spa in indiranagar wrote on 21 April 2023:

    you want to get massage from male therapist then visit best male to male massage spa in indiranagar we have strong hands therapist who can relax your body pain by pressure point massage

  • 5
    body massage spa near me wrote on 21 April 2023:

    body massage spa hitech city hyderabad is one of the best solutions to stress and fatigue problem .so come and enjoy.

  • 6
    Noida Escorts wrote on 21 April 2023:

    Hi, This is Neha Sharma, Your lovely Neha, I am ready to meet up with you any time in any place where ever you want me to come. I'm ready for you to love me. I am a Noida  Escorts Girl. It's like a call girl. I will give a high level of pleasure.


  • 7
    Hemma wrote on 21 April 2023:

    Nice post follow: https://hemma.in

  • 8
    Escort Service in Jammu wrote on 21 April 2023:

    I booked a private room at the hotel and asked my girl to come over at around 11pm. She knocked on the door, dressed up in this sexy red dress and smiled at me when she saw me standing there waiting for her.
    follow us:
    Escort Service in Jammu

  • 9
    female to male spa in hyderabad wrote on 22 April 2023:

    (Encourages joint
    mobility and helps release female to male spa in hyderabad
    tension and restrictions in the shoulder joint

  • 10
    body massage centres in indiranagar wrote on 22 April 2023:

    izspa is classic body massage centres in indiranagar the best one that you can get in this locality. Well furnished ambiance and rooms along with private service from wonderful therapist

  • 11
    female to male spa near me wrote on 22 April 2023:

    Hi i am sweety from hyderabad. our female to male spa hyderabad is provide no.1 massage and will help you revive and relax.

  • 12
    casinositerank wrote on 23 April 2023:

    I can see that you are an expert at your field! I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business.

  • 13
    Mushtaq wrote on 23 April 2023:

    Discover the latest collection of Maria B lawn suits at Mushtaq. Experience premium quality and stylish designs for every occasion. Shop now for the perfect addition to your summer wardrobe.

  • 14
    steel shots wrote on 23 April 2023:

    Steel shots is a versatile abrasive material that can be used in a wide range of applications. It can be used for cleaning, deburring, polishing, and finishing various surfaces, making it an essential component of any sandblasting machine. Its versatility makes it an ideal choice for a variety of industries, including automotive, aerospace, construction, and metalworking.

  • 15
    baccaratsite.top wrote on 24 April 2023:

    The Best Online Places To Start Playing Live Dealer Baccarat With Real Money To Start Things Safe With!


  • 16
    baccaratsite.biz wrote on 24 April 2023:

    Find out how we rated each of the top-rated online casinos for live baccarat. Get ideas on how to set up live dealer baccarat, including funding your account and betting. We also provide some useful hints and betting strategies to give you an edge in the game.


  • 17
    casinositezone.com wrote on 24 April 2023:

    Looking for the best places to play baccarat online for real money? We’ve got you covered. On this page, you can find a list of the top casinos for baccarat in India. We also provide you with an ultimate guide to playing, which includes baccarat strategy and baccarat rules. Last but not least, you can also learn about live dealer baccarat, baccarat bonuses, and much more.


  • 18
    casinosite24.com wrote on 24 April 2023:

    If you want to test your skills at baccarat, then you can always access it in free play mode. It was formerly accessible in baccarat online free Flash mode, but all versions should now be available in HTML5 format, catering to both desktop and mobile players.


  • 19
    slotxo wrote on 24 April 2023:

    may not feel that We want to try new games all the time. Say that it is very beautiful and wonderful. slotxo

  • 20
    identityaccmanagements wrote on 24 April 2023:

    Ascent InfoSec provides professional cybersecurity consulting and managed security services to mid-size & large-size companies and public sector & educational organizations. Our services take a vendor-agnostic approach and work with any technology that is already in place. As part of advisory, we suggest best practices to reach your vision. Our consultants are certified and experienced in many technologies like McAfee, FireEye, enSilo, Sophos, TrendMicro, Symantec, Palo Alto, CrowdStrike, etc. We have partnerships with leading managed security service provider in chicago and offer unrivaled cross-section of strong technical expertise, deep real-world deployment experience, quality and actionable threat intelligence. You can feel confident leaving your information security needs in one of the Top 100 MSSPs, so you can focus on your business.

  • 21
    rksillustrations wrote on 24 April 2023:

    We’re dedicated to helping you get the most out of your book illustrations. With our unique selection Beautiful Book Illustrations of illustrations, experienced graphic designers, and superior customer service,

  • 22
    aliya wrote on 24 April 2023:

    You have done a amazing job with you website and thanku sir

  • 23
    best body massage centre in majestic wrote on 24 April 2023:

    After your massage, you may feel refresh and a sleepy as well you may experience a pure of energy, awareness and concentration. Visit best body massage centre in majestic

  • 24
    female to male spa near me koramangala wrote on 24 April 2023:

    one of the best massage center in koramangala bangalore to giving best massage and with normal price come and enjoy. visit female to male spa near me .

  • 25
    b2b spa near open maduravoyal wrote on 24 April 2023:

    nothing takes away the stress and rejuvenates your mind and body as a relaxing oil massage, body massages relax the tissues and muscles and help you unwind, so we provide b2b spa near me open now maduravoyal, let’s come and enjoy it

  • 26
    AMBKING wrote on 25 April 2023:

    At present and people in Asia are well known to the betting games in the form of online games, which are very convenient to the AMBKING

  • 27
    Pune Escorts Service wrote on 25 April 2023:

    Let your desires come true with our elite Pune Escorts Service. Get ready to experience top-notch companionship with our beautiful, fun, and professional ladies!


  • 28
    EON Clinics wrote on 25 April 2023:

    Have you got one or more of your teeth missing? Dental Implants can be a perfect solution to completely replace your lost tooth or teeth. An implant is a metal (titanium or zirconium-based) post that is surgically installed into the jawbone to fuse with it and serve as a replacement for the lost tooth root and strong support for the fake tooth. The artificial tooth could be a crown and if there is a need for the replacement of a few missing teeth, the implants could be fitted with dental prostheses like bridges and dentures.

  • 29
    top body massage spa near me majestic wrote on 25 April 2023:

    You can unwind from the worries of daily life and take time out to care for yourself at your where relaxation massage treatments can help you feel deeply renewed and scented delight. Visit body massage majestic in bangalore

  • 30
    full body massasge in bangalore wrote on 25 April 2023:

    Bellaspa give a deferent and extraordinary massage named sensual massage in bangalore this type massage are only available here. thank you.

  • 31
    massage in bangalore wrote on 25 April 2023:

    Massaging with olive massage in bangalore
    oil treats dry skin and protects against harmful UV rays and pollution.

  • 32
    body massage in adyar wrote on 25 April 2023:

    One of the immediate benefits of female to male body massage in adyar is a feeling of deep relaxation and calm, so come to our best center for glow your body skin thank you

  • 33
    Seo pitara wrote on 25 April 2023:

    Improve Your Website Visibility and Rankings with Our SEO Solution that Includes Directory Submission and Bookmarking Sites. link building

  • 34
    spa in marathahalli wrote on 26 April 2023:

    Remedial massage is a supplemental therapy used to rehabilitate injured, tight, or stiff muscles. Visit spa in marathahalli

  • 35
    full body massage in bangalore wrote on 26 April 2023:

    if you have dreams of taking your fashion or beauty brand to next level then come our spa center in bangalore. visit https://www.bellaspa.in/Massage-bangalore/full-body-massage.html

  • 36
    ruchi wrote on 26 April 2023:

    thanks share website

  • 37
    massage spa in sholinganallur wrote on 26 April 2023:

    massage spa in sholinganallur helps improve circulation to the skin, remove toxins and promote sound sleep, Similarly, head massage, foot massage, and facial massage also have essential impact on our health, so don’t late come 1st to our center for best services thank you

  • 38
    best body massage parlour in hsr layout wrote on 27 April 2023:

    We already know that massage therapy is incredibly effective in treating stress and sleep issues, which are frequent migraine causes. Visit best body massage parlour in hsr layout

  • 39
    lingam massage bangalore wrote on 27 April 2023:

    lingam massage bangalore can help promote relaxation, improve blood flow, ease muscle tension, reduce stress levels only provide bellaspa center,thank you.

  • 40
    라이브카지노 wrote on 27 April 2023:

    The results were worth all your hard work. You’ve got it now.

  • 41
    파라오카지노 wrote on 27 April 2023:

    This gets a four-star rating. You’ve put in a full day today.

  • 42
    vegita lawyer wrote on 27 April 2023:

    Great blog post! I really enjoyed reading it and found it to be both informative and engaging. Your positive energy and enthusiasm for the topic really shine through, and I appreciate the effort you put into creating such a well-written piece. Keep up the excellent work, and I look forward to reading more from you in the future!Best Divorce Lawyers Near Me

  • 43
    Noida Models wrote on 27 April 2023:

    Noida Models *

  • 44
    Steel shots wrote on 27 April 2023:

    Are you looking for a way to save time and money when it comes to buying steel shots? Look no further! By buying steel shots in bulk, you can enjoy the benefits of lower prices and more efficient ordering. Enjoy quick and easy ordering in bulk and save time and money when you buy steel shots in bulk. steel shots

  • 45
    massage spa in thoraipakkam wrote on 27 April 2023:

    thoraipakkam body massage spa fits comfortably in your hand, enjoy the rounded side for body massages and the curvy side for clitoral or targeted stimulation, don’t late come fast to our center for best services thank your

  • 46
    Ammara khan wrote on 27 April 2023:

    Looking for a stylish and latest Long Shirts for Girls online in Pakistan? Ammara Khan collection of long shirts for girls is the perfect solution. Shop Now today and elevate your fashion game to the next level!

  • 47
    punedolls wrote on 28 April 2023:

    Pune Escorts ||

  • 48
    body massage spa at hsr layout bangalore wrote on 28 April 2023:

    body massage spa in hsr layout Regular massages foster the infant’s rapid sensory and motor development and help the newborn feel emotionally connected.

  • 49
    female to male massage parlour near me wrote on 28 April 2023:

    Institute of Thai Massagein Chiang Mai, Thailand, it’s customary for the Thai Practitioner to warm up female to male massage parlour near me
    for the day with an hour Yoga/ Tai Chi routine.

  • 50
    best body massage center in bangalore wrote on 28 April 2023:

    professionally trained therapists to provide you with the body massage in bangalore very nice treatments and very friendly massage thank you.