- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2005

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia (AP) — Nomadic herders arrived on horses at polling stations on Mongolia’s vast steppe to vote yesterday for a new president, with the candidate from the former Communist Party leading the polls.

The Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, the former Communist Party now known as MRRP, was voted out in 1996 but re-elected in 2000, and now appears to be riding new popularity.

Polls show its candidate, Nambariin Enkhbayar, leading three rivals amid nostalgia for the stability of one-party rule and Soviet subsidies that ended in 1990.

The only major question appeared to be whether Mr. Enkhbayar would receive the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.

Results were expected today, with poll workers counting paper ballots cast at 1,600 stations across this sprawling, sparsely populated nation of 2.5 million people wedged between Russia and China.

“All the candidates sounded the same to me, so I just voted for my old party,” said Batsukh Tseveenchimed, 62, of the MPRP.

Mongolia has a parliamentary system, with a government run by a prime minister. But the presidency grew in importance as the country went through a series of governments over the past decade.

The MPRP’s rivals complain that the party still dominates election bodies that register voters and run polling stations. Foreign observers were visiting polling stations yesterday, but no misconduct was reported.

Mr. Enkhbayar, a former prime minister, campaigned on a promise to do more to attract foreign investment.

Mr. Enkhbayar’s three opponents are:

• The Democratic Party’s Mendsaikhanin Enkhsaikhan, who draws his support from anti-communists and defied police to take to the streets in 1990 and bring down one-party rule in this country.

• The Republican Party’s Bazarsadyn Jargalsaikhan, one of the country’s richest men. His Buyan Co. processes cashmere, and he says his success as a businessman shows he can bring prosperity.

• The Motherland Party’s Badarchyn Erdenebat, who supports a national referendum to give more power to the presidency, in a country where parliament is splintered among many parties and the prime minister changes frequently.

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