- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 25, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

For the first time since Mongolia transitioned to democracy in 1990, an opposition party candidate has won the presidency. Elbegdorj Tsakhiagiin was sworn in as president last week.

What draws our interest is the steady, patient march of democracy. A country cannot truly be said to be democratic until its parties can peacefully trade power. It is easy to hold elections. It is another matter for the governing party to accept the verdict of the people and peacefully step aside.

The unrest in Iran is there precisely because the ruling elite cannot accept the will of the people and yield power. Another parallel, more in line with Mongolia’s recent electoral milestone, was the American election of 1800 in which Democrat Thomas Jefferson defeated Federalist John Adams after a bitter campaign. The young republic moved forward in peace. The respect of the world and the trust of the people deepened in watching this simple, but powerful, transition.

Since its move away from communist rule, Mongolia has pursued free-market policies to best exploit its richness in natural resources. This has triggered a sharp upward climb in economic well-being. Mongolia also has maintained a liberal political climate. Freedom House ranks Mongolia as a free country, which is quite a feat for a mountain state sandwiched between the more authoritarian Russia and China.

Mongolia has been a solid friend and ally of the United States, contributing troops to the efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

We applaud Mongolia’s latest successful step along the path of democratic development and hope the United States will take strides to strengthen the economic, educational and cultural ties between our two countries. We urge the Obama administration to support Mongolia by negotiating a bilateral free-trade agreement, which could become a model for trans-Pacific economic cooperation. America needs to show that it is beneficial for other nations to be our friends in this world of ever-increasing dangers.

While the State Department is busy reaching out to the rogue states of the world, it is important to remember the numerous fledgling democracies like Mongolia that play by the rules. Mongolia already has extended the warm hand of comradeship to the United States. The Obama administration just has to accept it. Here’s hoping it does.

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