Elbegdorj, Tsakhiagiin (Mongolia)
Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj took office on 18 June 2009, the first president not to have been a member of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP). Campaigning on a platform of change and anti-corruption that appealed to urban voters, he won the election with just over 51% of the vote on 24 May 2009, beating MPRP candidate and incumbent president Nambaryn Enkhbayar. He was re-elected in June 2013.
Elbegdorj was born on 30 March 1963 in the district of Zereg. In 1988 he graduated from the Military Political Institute in Ukraine (then part of the USSR) and went on to attain a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University in the USA.
Elbegdorj was active in the fight against communism and in 1989 helped establish a recognized pro-democracy movement. The following year he founded Mongolia’s first independent newspaper, Democracy. A few months later he was elected to government and was a key figure in drafting a new constitution, adopted in Jan. 1992. In 1996, as leader of the Democratic Party (DP), Elbegdorj led the Democratic Union Coalition to victory in parliamentary elections, paving the way for the country’s first peaceful power transition.
Elbegdorj was elected prime minister in April 1998 but a banking scandal forced his resignation shortly afterwards. After the 2004 elections he was again appointed to the premiership, heading a fragile MPRP-DP coalition. During his tenure, he announced measures to boost tourism, reorganized domestic political structures, loosened control of the news media and oversaw the replacement of Russian by English as Mongolia’s second language. In Jan. 2006 he was again forced to resign when the MPRP withdrew from the coalition, sparking public demonstrations in Ulaanbaatar.
At elections in May 2009 Elbegdorj won by only a narrow margin over the incumbent president. Nevertheless, the MPRP accepted the result, producing a peaceful outcome after fears of a repeat of the violence that followed the DP’s claims of fraud at the 2008 parliamentary polling.
On taking office Elbegdorj faced the challenges of working with a parliament dominated at the time by the MPRP and tackling high levels of corruption and unemployment. He also aimed to spread the profits of Mongolia’s mineral wealth more widely. On the foreign stage, he was expected to cultivate Western ties to counterbalance the influence of neighbouring Russia and China.
Following parliamentary elections in June 2012, Elbegdorj’s DP was returned as the largest party but without an overall majority. This heralded the formation in Aug. of a DP-led government including the Justice Coalition. Elbegdorj secured his own re-election in June 2013, having again campaigned on an anti-corruption and liberalizing agenda. However, following the Mongolian People’s Party’s landslide victory over the DP in parliamentary elections in June 2016, Elbegdorj swore in Jargaltulgyn Erdenebat as prime minister at the head of a new MPP government.
Since the constitution does not permit three successive terms, Elbegdorj could not run for the presidential elections of June 2017. On 10 July he was succeeded by Khaltmaagiim Battulga (also of the Democratic Party).