July 8, 2017 3:58 pm JST

Mongolian opposition leader Battulga declares victory in presidential runoff

Popular former martial artist and businessman elected to four-year term

SHUNSUKE TABETA, Nikkei staff writer

Battulga Khaltmaa declares victory in Mongolia's presidential race at a press conference in Ulaanbaatar in early hours of Saturday. (Photo by Shunsuke Tabeta)

ULAANBAATAR -- Battulga Khaltmaa, 54, of Mongolia's opposition Democratic Party, has declared victory in Friday's presidential runoff, thanking voters and pledging to work for development and national unity.

Ahead of an official announcement from the election commission on Saturday afternoon, Battulga triumphantly told an early morning press conference that "Mongolia has won," a reference to his campaign slogan "Mongolia will triumph."

Battulga received 610,000 votes, a lead of around 100,000 over Enkhbold Miyegombo, 52, the candidate of the ruling Mongolian People's Party, according to a preliminary tally by the election commission. It remains to be seen whether Battulga won more than 50% of the votes cast in the second round of the poll. The election commission said it would release the final result after it counting ballots cast by overseas voters.

The runoff vote was rife with mutual mud-slinging as both candidates leveled allegations of corruption at each other. In his victory conference, Battulga made reference to Enkhbold's "United Mongolia" campaign slogan, in an effort to encourage reconciliation among the divided public.

But he also said it was the public that should be united and not the nation's politicians during a pointed criticism of Enkhbold, a seasoned politician who has served as prime minister and held other key government posts. Battulga also discussed his immediate priorities for office and vowed to improve what he characterized as Mongolia's "battered economy."

Battulga, a popular former martial artist, has won widespread public support for his achievements in business and sport. Mongolia won its first Olympic gold medal under his guidance as president of the Mongolian Judo Association. He has also previously served as minister of industry and agriculture.

His victory in Friday's poll was aided by the previous government's unpopular economic reform program, which saw the introduction of higher taxes in an attempt to restore the country's finances.

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