June 27, 2017 6:49 am JST

Mongolia to hold runoff presidential election

No candidate wins majority in close vote Monday

SHUNSUKE TABETA, Nikkei staff writer

Mongolian presidential candidates Battulga Khaltmaa, left, and Enkhbold Miyegombo. The country will hold a runoff election after the Monday vote failed to determine the winner.

ULAANBAATAR -- Mongolia is headed for its first runoff presidential election in history after all three candidates failed to secure an outright majority in the Monday voting.

Battulga Khaltmaa of the leading opposition Democratic Party came in first, with just about 500,000 of the over 1.3 million votes cast, according to provisional results released by the General Election Committee. The top two candidates from the Monday election will now face off in a second round expected to be held within two weeks. The results of the Monday election are expected to become clear Tuesday.

Battulga's nationalistic pledge that "Mongolia will win" resonates with the country's youth, propelling him to first place. He called on younger voters to turn out for the runoff at a news conference Monday night.

The head of the Mongolian Judo Association and a prominent businessman, Battulga has also served as the East Asian nation's minister of food, agriculture and light industry. He won votes by promising to use the country's rich mineral reserves to benefit Mongolians, though some worry how this could impact foreign-funded development projects.

Although Enkhbold Miyegombo of the ruling Mongolian People's Party was long considered the front-runner, he is neck and neck for second place with Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party candidate Ganbaatar Sainkhuu.

Enkhbold stressed to reporters Monday that the election is about economic and social issues and finding a solution to Mongolia's budget deficit. But his campaign lost steam amid allegations of an illicit land sale during his time as mayor of Ulaanbaatar, as well as a backlash against Saturday's televised debate that many thought was skewed in favor of the candidate.

Meanwhile, Ganbaatar on Monday doubled down on the need to use Mongolian resources for the Mongolian people. He has extended his appeal beyond his older base by tapping into long-held grievances about foreign companies mining the country's rich natural resources.

The president will serve for four years, and will have control of the military as well as veto power over the parliament. The candidates have focused mainly on negative campaigning rather than political debates, leading many Mongolians to lament the lack of options this year.

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