Archive for January, 2007
Mongolia is a landlocked country located in North-East Asia between Russia and China. The country has a total area of 1,565,600 square km, almost three times the size of France. Mongolia shares a 4,673 km border with China on its eastern, western and southern sides and a 3,485 km border with Russia to the north. The population of Mongolia is only 2,7 million, giving it one of the lowest population densities of any country in the world, similar to the arctic areas of northern Canada. Approximately 900,000 people live in Ulaanbaatar, the capital and largest city. Other major cities include Darkhan, an industrial center near the northern border and Erdenet, a copper mining center, also in the north. Around 40% of the populations live in countryside, primarily as nomadic livestock herders, while the rest live in the major cities or small towns spread throughout the country.
The Mongolian latitude (between 42 and 52 degrees north) is roughly the same as Central Europe or the northern states of the USA. Because the country is landlocked and distanced from the world’s oceans, and has a large proportion of its landmass at a relatively high altitude, the climate exhibits large temperature fluctuations and low total rainfall (the Ulaanbaatar average is 220 mm per annum, approximately 10 inches). Most of the precipitation falls during the brief summer season, while winters are generally dry and extremely cold.
While the climate and geographic conditions of the country limit crop agriculture, they are well suited to expensive livestock production. Nomadic herding of livestock, primarily sheep, goats, horses, cattle, yaks and camels, is one of the mainstays of the Mongolian economy, and forms the basis of its cultural identity. Approximately 65% of the country is steppe grasslands; the southern third is Gobi desert, while forests and mountains cover approximately 12% of the total land, mostly in the northern areas. Mongolia is rich in mineral resources with substantial deposits of gold, fluorspar, ferrous metals such as molybdenum, and non-ferrous metals such as lead, copper, nickel, aluminum, tin and bismuth.
People and Language
More than 90% of the populations of Mongolia are Khalkh Mongols, while the rest are Kazakhs or other ethnic groups living mainly in the western part of the country. Substantial Mongolian populations also live in the Inner Mongolia Region of China, and the Siberian areas of Russia near the Mongolian border. The primary language is Mongolian, a member of the Altai language family. Many people also speak some Russian due to the heavy influence of the former Soviet Union in Mongolia, and young people now study English along with other foreign languages such as Japanese, German and French. The most common religion in the country is Tibetan Buddhism, which has enjoyed a strong revival since the end of communism in the late-1980s. Other religions are freely practiced, and include a substantial Muslim following in the western areas of the country.
Mongolia is administratively divided into 21 aimags (provinces) and 334 soums (counties). The capital of Mongolia is Ulaanbaatar, which has recently registered one millionth citizen (April 2007).
Mongolia: Basic Demographic Indicators as of 2006
Population: 2.7 million
Population 0-14 years: 27.9%
Population 15-64 years: 68.4%
Population over 65 years: 3.7%
Population Growth Rate: 1.46%
Population Distribution: 52% urban, 48% rural
Population Density: 1.4 persons/square kilometer
Labor Force: 1.115 million 942
Unemployment Rate: 6.7% (2003)
Population Mix: Mongolian 90%, Kazak 5%, Russian 2%, Chinese 2%, other 1%.
Official Language: Khalkha Mongol, using Cyrillic script.
Literacy Rate: 97.8% /2004/
Source: World Bank and various web sites including http://www.nso.mn and http://www.undp.org
Modern Mongolia history began in 1206 when Chinggis Khaan united the Mongol tribes and embarked on a series of military conquests across Asia and into the Middle-East and Europe. Chinggis’s sons and heirs extended the kingdom in the late-13th century when the Mongols controlled one of the largest empires in history, stretching from present-day northern Vietnam to the Middle-East and Central Europe. By the mid-14th century, however, internal struggles caused the empire to collapse, and by the 17th century the Manchu Qing Empire in China had subjugated all of Mongolia.
After the Chinese revolution of 1911, the northern Mongol princes declared an autonomous Mongolia with Jebtsun Damba Khutukhtu, the Living Buddha of Urga, as a ruler. After a brief reoccupation by the Chinese, the new state was occupied first by White-Russian troops, then by the Russian Red Army. In July 1921, Mongolia was proclaimed an independent state, which remained a monarchy until the death of the Living Buddha in 1924. In 1924, with the support of the Soviets, the Mongolian People’s Republic was formed with a centrally planned economy and political system along socialist lines. Beginning in 1989, and corresponding with the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country and the period of glasnost in the Soviet Union, protests for greater democracy began in Ulaanbaatar. As in many East-European countries, these protests led to the fall of the Communist government and the adoption of a democratic political system. The first multi-party elections were held in 1990. During the early 1990s, the ex-Communist Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) gradually yielded its monopoly on power to the Democratic Union Coalition (DUC), which defeated the MPRP in a national election in 1996. Since then, parliamentary elections returned the MPRP overwhelmingly to power in 2000 and produced a coalition government in 2004.
The Political System
In January 1992, the Mongolian legislature adopted a new Constitution, which came into force on 12 February 1992. The Constitution establishes Mongolia as a democratic republic. As a unitary state, Mongolia is divided into administrative units called aimags. As with other democratic market economies, the Mongolian political structure consists of legislative, executive and judicial branches of government with a president as the head of state.
The legislature arm of the Mongolian State is the State Great Hural or Parliament, which is composed of a single chamber consisting of 76 members. Citizens qualified to vote, elect the members of parliament for a period of four years. Qualifications for office require that candidates must be citizens of Mongolia and at least 25 years of age.
The Mongolian parliament has the power to enact legislation and has exclusive authority in a number of areas, including domestic and foreign policy. It sets the dates for the election of the President and Parliament, confirms the President in office, removes the President from office and appoints, replaces or removes the Prime Minister. Importantly, parliament also has the power to ratify or reject international agreements. The parliament also has authority over ‘strategic minerals’ including oil, gas and uranium. National laws must be disseminated through publication and enter into force 10 days after the date of publication.
One or more political parties represented in the Parliament nominate presidential candidates. Election is by simple majority and once elected, the President serves a term of four years and may be re-elected only once. Candidates must be over 45 years of age and Mongolian citizens who have resided in the country for at least five years prior to election. The President acts as head of state and as head of the national Security Council (which consists of the President, the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament). The President has the power to veto Parliament’s decisions; however his veto may be overturned by a two-thirds majority vote of the Parliament. The President may also issue decrees that come into effect upon signature by the Prime Minister. The President nominates the candidate for Prime Minister in consultation with the major political party. A two-thirds majority of Parliament may remove the President for violation of the Constitution or an abuse of power in breach of the presidential oath. In June 2005, his Excellency Mr. Nambariin Enkhbayar was elected President of Mongolia.
The Government is the highest executive body of the state. Their term is four years beginning with the appointment of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is the leader of the government and is accountable to parliament for its implementation of legislation. The government is also responsible for directing the country’s economic, social and cultural development. To do so, it can establish agencies (classified as either implementing agencies or regulatory ones) by adopting the rules and regulations these agencies propose. After the 2004 general elections, the government has established and Prime Minister works with Deputy Prime minister and 13 ministries.
The government is also empowered to protect the environment and to use and renew natural resources. It has the authority to regulate and approve the exploration for, and exploitation of, ‘strategic minerals’. The next parliamentary elections will be held in 2008.
The Mongolian Constitution also establishes a judicial function vested solely in the courts. The judicial system consists of the Supreme Court as the highest court with a number of appellate and district courts. The Supreme Courts has a number of powers including the right to try certain criminal cases and legal disputes, and to examine the decisions of lower courts through the appeals process. The Supreme Court also examines cases of human rights transferred to it by the Constitutional Court and the Prosecutor-General and provides official interpretations of law, with the exception of the Constitution. The Constitution also allows for the formation of specialized courts such as criminal, civil and administrative courts that are not under the supervision of the Supreme Court. A general Council of Courts has also been established to ensure the independence of the judiciary. It has the exclusive power to select judges.