Mongolia to hold election under coronavirus cloud

ULAANBAATAR • Mongolians will elect a new Parliament tomorrow under the cloud of the coronavirus, with controversy over candidates flouting lockdown rules and thousands of people stranded overseas unable to vote.

Mongolia, a landlocked country of three million people wedged between China and Russia, has taken some of the world’s toughest and most enduring measures to contain the virus.

In March, it became one of the first countries to close its borders, while schools and universities that were even more quickly shuttered will remain closed until September.

But 2,000 polling stations have been set up for tomorrow’s vote, which will elect the Parliament though not the most powerful presidential post.

Fuelling anger over seemingly different rules for politics and other aspects of life, the country’s two main parties have broken bans on gatherings of above 30 people by holding big campaign rallies.

They have also flouted bans on door-to-door campaigning and ignored other social-distancing rules. “People are much more worried about Covid-19 than unemployment or poverty,” said Bold Sambuu, a senior advisor at Zorig Foundation, a democracy advocacy group.

About 600 candidates are contesting the 76 seats in the single-chamber parliament.

The ruling Mongolian People’s Party appears best placed to take advantage of the unprecedented circumstances, partly because the strict measures have kept a lid on infections.

There have only been about 200 reported cases in Mongolia — most imported from Russia — and no confirmed coronavirus fatalities.

Another of its strict measures has been forcing returnees to spend five weeks in quarantine, including three in a government-run facility. — AFP