August 22, 2017

ANOTHER CHALLENGE IN MONGOLIA’S SOCIETY: POLITICS

The systems theory was explained in my previous column, saying that society is divided into five dimensions: wealth (economy), knowledge (science), power (politics), tradition (ethics and values), and culture (beauty). Stronger synergies between these five dimensions allow the society to advance in its development and offer better benefits to its members. The economic dimension was previously dissected, which helped analyse what challenges Mongolia faces today and what consequences can potentially occur.

This time let us look into the politics (power) dimension. At the time of this writing, it has been decided that the 2017 presidential election would have a run-off election, after the Democratic Party (DP) candidate was unsuccessful in garnering more than 50 percent of votes, despite having collected more votes than the other two candidates.

There is an opportunity to rank problems by their degree in the current political scenario and seek ways to fix issues.

Primary Problems

The first-degree problems in politics dimension are lack of power, unequal distribution of power, and uncertainty over power. For example, Mongolia experienced lack of power until 1990, because before then our nation’s most important political and economic decisions were made by Moscow. Yu.Tsedenbal, who was the leader of Mongolian government for 40 consecutive years, was taken to Russia under the name of medical treatment, but was kept there until he died. This was a reflection of weakness or lack of power in Mongolian people.

The 1990 democratic revolution made the people believe that power of the state would fully transition to them because the government would be making decisions reflective of public interest and establish a democratic society and free market economy.

However, every election has made the distribution of power more unequal, which leads to the transition of power from people to political parties. Today, the leader of a political party assumes limitless political power and authority if they win the election.

When it happens, the leader of a winning political party directs his power to serve the business groups that provided campaign funding to them, having commercialized not only the seats in government but also public procurement and projects that are funded by the government.

In the years of MPP/DP rule, all companies who supported and financed these two political parties received soft loans from the government and ran their businesses with their assistance. Because of this, the idea of free economic competition has basically been erased. People are now trying their best to enter politics and get a piece of the pie, instead of competing with their businesses.

In recent years, the election process has become relatively more transparent, which reduced the likelihood of cheating at vote counting. Transparency improves the way people can hold political parties accountable, but injustice has been on the rise nonetheless.

People are losing their faith that justice would be reinstated because they keep seeing unfair acts go without punishment, and criminals getting pardoned. Therefore, people have doubts that the judiciary branch of government would be the guardian of justice.

Even our governments expect the next government to settle the debt when issuing bonds in domestic and foreign markets. All government activities today are short-sighted and do not see beyond the four years until the next election.

Secondary Problems

Corruption is a secondary problem a country faces if the primary problems are not overcome. It has been many years since corruption has grown into a major problem in Mongolia. Because it is difficult to eradicate corruption, this problem keeps expanding.

Mongolia scored 39 out of 100, and was ranked 88th out of 176 countries by corruption indexes. We have been there for four years now, without making any improvements. The most important positions in the government are being taken by those who paid the greatest amount of money to their political party. After assuming office, these people recruit their relatives, friends, and associates. The clearest examples are found in our ministries. For instance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sends new people abroad to work in embassies and consular offices as soon as a new government is established. This is a clear reflection of Mongolia’s corruption. It has been a long time since personal connections have grown to be more important than skills and professional knowledge at this ministry.

Corruption is the biggest problem in political (power) dimension. Due to being unable to get rid of corruption, developing countries experience instability, division among people, disorder caused by corrupt media, stifled development, and countrywide poverty.

Corruption is caused by flaws in the system of producing and distributing wealth and knowledge. The fact that we are unable to stop corruption today demonstrates our structure in society does not have the capabilities to fight corruption. Corruption is a reflection of a bureaucratic, unhealthy society. Those who created this problem are better off when there is corruption, thus they are not interested in getting rid of it.

In order to resolve these problems in Mongolia’s political dimension today, the focus has to be on building stronger discipline in political parties and making sure people can provide oversight on their funds. Political parties are the only institutions that can assume the governing power. Disbanding the General Election Commission and establishing a General Voters Commission would be a solution to put in place a strong mechanism that provides people with the power to provide oversight. The board of the General Voters Commission would have not only representatives from political parties but also representatives of people who are independent from political parties. The first tasks for this commission need to be providing oversight on operational and financial reports of political parties and informing the public.