06/26/2013, 00.00
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Between coal and corruption, Mongolia goes to the polls

A popular former wrestler and a woman (the first) are challenging outgoing President Elbegdorj Tsakhia, who is seeking a second mandate. Greater transparency and better mineral resources management are the main campaign issues.

Ulan Bator (AsiaNews/Agencies) - At the end of an election campaign dominated by the issues of corruption and energy resources, Mongolians are getting ready to vote. The challengers with the best chances against the incumbent are a former wrestler and the first woman candidate, a doctor. In power since 2009, President Elbegdorj Tsakhia is leading in the polls, and can count on much of the electorate's desire for continuity.

"I'm your son. I know your pain and struggles," Elbegdorj told cheering supporters at a final campaign rally on Sunday in the capital, Ulan Bator. "I know exactly what I will do if I'm re-elected. I will continue my fight against corruption and finish what I already started."

Elbegdorj, who has a degree from Harvard University, stressed his political origins as a leader of the 1990 protest movement that ended 70 years of one-party Communist rule and gave birth to a thriving democracy in a region better known for stern dictatorships.

Badmaanyambuugiin Bat-Erdene (pictured), in contrast, has limited political experience, but has built up a great following thanks to his many victories in Mongolia's national competition of Naadam, which combines horse racing, archery and wrestling.

Holder of a master's degree in law, he heads the opposition Mongolian People's Party. During the campaign, he focused on national unity and the need for transparency.

A third candidate, Health Minister Udval Natsag, is Mongolia's first woman to vie for the presidency. A staunch backer of former President Enkhbayar Nambar, who is now serving time in jail for corruption, she has a steeper climb to make if she wants to reach the presidency.

A faithful US ally, Mongolia is geographically landlocked between Russia and China. In recent years, it has experienced significant growth thanks to its mining sector. The newfound wealth has however contributed to soaring inflation.

In this year's election, government transparency and resource management have dominated the campaign.


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