Mongolian People's Party retains strong parliament majority

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Residents wearing masks line up to cast their vote outside of the Parliamentary election district voting station no.23-9 in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Mongolians were voting in parliamentary elections Wednesday across the vast, lightly populated country, a U.S. ally squeezed between authoritarian governments in China and Russia. The polls are being held amid considerable success in the country's fight against the coronavirus, with just 215 cases of COVID-19 recorded. All of them have been imported and no one has died. (AP Photo/Ganbat Namjilsangarav)

ULAANBAATAR – The Mongolian People’s Party retained a strong parliamentary majority, preliminary election results showed Thursday, as the U.S.-allied nation sandwiched between Russia and China held onto its democratic principles amid economic woes.

The MPP secured 62 of 76 seats, while the main opposition Democratic Party won 11 seats and three others were taken by independents and coalitions, the General Election Commission said Thursday.

People followed strict social distancing measures during Wednesday's vote in a vast, landlocked country that has had considerable success in fending off the coronavirus. Voters maintained 2 meters (6.5 feet) between them while standing in lines at polling stations in the capital, Ulaanbaatar. Once inside the polling place, election workers checked their temperature and distributed hand sanitizer.

Mongolia has recorded just 216 cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday, all of them imported, and no one has died.

The election result marks the first time a single party has retained an absolute majority in consecutive elections. Previously the Mongolian People’s Party and the Democratic Party had taken turns wielding a majority in the State Great Khural or were compelled to form coalition governments.

The landslide victory will allow Prime Minister Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh to freely form a new cabinet or maintain his current cabinet without facing any opposition.

He will, however, need to work with President Khaltmaagiin Battulga of the Democratic Party, who was elected in 2017 and was not on the ballot.

Economic malaise, corruption and weak public services dominated concerns among the country’s 3.2 million people, about half of whom live in Ulaanbaatar.