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Mongolia: Former Communist Back In Power

By Dosan Baimolda and Bruce Pannier

Prague, 11 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Mongolia celebrates today its National Day, "Naadam," to commemorate its liberation in 1921 from Chinese rule.

This year's Naadam comes barely two months after the country held presidential elections, when about 85 per cent of Mongolia's eligible voters turned out to elect Nasagiin Bagabandi.

Bagabandi is the leader of the Mongolian People's Party (MPR) which formerly was the Communist Party. He defeated the incumbent, Punsalmagin Ochirbat of the Democratic Coalition.

But the Democratic Coalition still holds the majority in the Mongolian Great Hural, or parliament. The coalition won fair and free elections last year (May 1996) in what was seen as a huge upset. The electorate apparently hoped then that the Democratic Coalition would speed economic reforms, which, in turn, were seen as possibly leading to a rapid improvement in the quality of life.

They have been disappointed, however. Unemployment and inflation have hit Mongolia hard and its production declined as has the standard of living of its population. This disappointment seems to be an important factor in Bagabandi's victory.

But improvement may be coming. Investments from countries such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore are slowly increasing. And there are signs that the United States and European countries may be giving more attention to Mongolia as well.