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Mongolian prime minister voted out over graft allegations

Posted September 7

— Mongolian lawmakers voted to dismiss the prime minister and his Cabinet for alleged incompetence and corruption related to the signing of government contracts with companies linked to three Cabinet members.

A majority of lawmakers from the ruling Mongolian People's Party joined with members of the opposition to pass the motion demanding that Prime Minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat and his 14-month-old Cabinet resign over the granting of contracts worth $328 million.

The MPP controls 65 seats in the 76 member Great Hural, with the opposition Democratic Party and independents sharing the remainder. Out of 73 lawmakers present during the voting late Thursday, 33 from the MPP and nine opposition and independent lawmakers voted for the dismissal.

Parliament is expected appoint a new Cabinet and prime minister in 45 days, and the current officials will continue serving in the interim.

Democratic Party lawmaker Batzandan Jalbasuren said the government had failed in the fight against corruption and accused Erdenebat's administration of "stealing."

Supporters of the motion cited contracts signed with the minister of justice, who owns a large construction company, a Cabinet secretary with interests in a road building company and the minister of labor and social protection, whose family owns a large mining company.

The contracts are for roads and power transmission equipment, including substations for the mining industry.

Erdenebat, in office since 2016, has also been accused of distributing millions of dollars in cash to families with children ahead of a presidential runoff election on July 7, in an apparent attempt to win votes for the ruling party's candidate, who lost.

Mongolia, a landlocked country of 3 million, boasts vast mineral wealth but has struggled to court foreign investment in the face of plunging commodity prices and high-profile disputes between the government and large investors such as mining giant Rio Tinto.

The government has also been weighed down by a national debt of about $23 billion, or twice the country's annual economic output, and recently obtained a $5.5 billion bailout led by the International Monetary Fund.

In July, populist business tycoon and ex-judo champion Khaltmaa Battulga of the Democratic Party was elected president, edging out the establishment MPP candidate in a runoff.

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