July 7, 2017 2:44 am JST

Mongolians return to polls in runoff presidential vote

Results could be determined by 30% who voted for eliminated candidate

SHUNSUKE TABETA, Nikkei staff writer

Campaign ads in Ulaanbaatar for Enkhbold Miyegombo, top, and for Battulga Khaltmaa.

ULAANBAATAR -- Mongolia's two top finishers in last month's election are heading into the country's first-ever presidential runoff, with the outcome hinging on 30% of the voters who initially chose a third candidate.

Battulga Khaltmaa of the leading opposition Democratic Party won 38% of the votes cast on June 26, followed by Enkhbold Miyegombo of the ruling Mongolian People's Party at 30%. Because no single candidate secured a majority, the two will advance to a runoff round on Friday, with results expected early Saturday.

Ganbaatar Sainkhuu of the opposition Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party also took about 30% of the vote, but lost narrowly to Enkhbold. Because his party splintered off from the ruling party, many expect Ganbaatar's supporters to vote for Enkhbold on Friday.

But others believe Battulga stands to gain, since he and Ganbaatar ran on similar platforms. Both, for example, promised that Mongolia's rich natural resources will benefit the public, rather than making foreign companies rich. Meanwhile, the People's Revolutionary Party has made claims of voter fraud last month, and it remains to be seen how its supporters will react in the second round.

Battulga has gained support among younger generations with his patriotic cry, "Mongolia will win." The country won its first Olympic gold medal under his guidance as president of the Mongolian Judo Association, and he has also served as minister of industry and agriculture. His campaign has also been helped by former sumo champion Dagvadorj Dolgorsuren, who wrestled under the name Asashoryu.

Enkhbold, a former prime minister, has called for a "United Mongolia," and wants to revive the economy through fiscal reforms and increased foreign investment. He was expected to take the lead in the presidential race after his Mongolian People's Party won a majority in the general election last year, but tax hikes and other financial reforms implemented by the ruling party dented his popularity.

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