Key concerns of Mongolian public revealed by deliberative democracy event

Mongolia’s path to become a parliamentary democracy is unique. A public consultation now revealed where Mongolian citizens see potential for democratic progress: fewer restrictions on public gatherings, freedom of expression and more political transparency.

Mongolians wish to see fewer restrictions on public gatherings, and more transparency around the funding of political parties, among other changes. These were some of the key findings of a recent gathering of more than 800 representative citizens, the second public consultation exercise held under the title Deliberate and Resolve.

The participants felt that the procedure for obtaining permission to hold peaceful demonstrations and assemblies should be abolished, and replaced with a requirement to simply notifying the necessary persons or organizations. They also said it was urgent to carry out legal reforms to ensure transparency and public control over the sources of funding, income, and expenditure of political parties.

"The participants voted on 22 questions,” explained economist and Deputy Chairwoman of the Deliberative Council Banzragch Otgontugs. “The categories were: civilian and political rights and responsibilities; parliamentary democracy; economy; sovereign wealth funds; decentralization; and social challenges.”

The meeting was organized by the Office of the State Great Khural, the country’s single-chamber parliament. The 801 participants were chosen via a careful process to ensure they included representatives of diverse backgrounds, including differences in knowledge or education, age, gender, and occupation. The discussions of state affairs were supported without any disruptions or delays, allowing them to express their views freely and openly.

With the 1990 Democratic Revolution, Mongolia became the first country in Asia to successfully transition to democracy from communist rule. Since then, the country has made significant progress toward democratization and has held regular multi-party elections. However, there is still work to be done to strengthen democratic institutions, and challenges persist in terms of corruption and political polarization.

The National Deliberative Polls are an initiative to address these issues and promote equal opportunities for all citizens to engage in political and economic activities. It aims to enlist the help of citizens in identifying the most effective solutions for the country's socio-economic challenges.

“The first meeting in 2017 was on amending the Constitution of Mongolia,” said Deputy Head of the Office of the Parliament Sodnomdarjaa Batbaatar. “Based on this experience, we held a new meeting dedicated to the social, economic, and political problems of the country and ways to solve them.”

Khuyag Ganbaatar, a member of the Deliberative Council and the Head of the United Union of Mongolian Employers, highlighted that the deliberative polling process was not influenced by any political party, official, or leader, allowing for active participation by people of diverse viewpoints.

In addition to the above points about public gatherings and political-party financing, citizens also considered it important to create a legal framework ensuring that the governing body of the National Wealth Fund is professionally qualified, independent of politics, and carries out its activities under the control of the public. Such a framework could also create a legal basis to create a fund from mining exports to support small and medium-sized enterprises, they said.

All the findings were compiled and used to draw up the Recommendations of the Deliberative Council. These were then presented to Gombojav Zandanshatar, Chairman of the Great State Khural.

The public consultations have shown how citizens “can be engaged in a more informed and thoughtful deliberation process to address political, economic, and social problems,” the chairman said. Public consensus has a valuable role to play in shaping state policies and decisions, he added. “We consulted and discussed the problems facing the country in all domains with Mongolian intellect and wisdom.”

The Deliberate and Resolve polling initiative marks a significant step towards improving political, economic, and social life in Mongolia.

Khurelbaatar Odonchimeg is a journalist with more than 10 years of experience in the field. She has worked for a national newspaper, magazine, and website, covering various topics related to Mongolian society and culture, as well as the daily lives of its people.

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