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New Prime Minister Selected in Mongolia - 2004-08-20


Mongolia's parliament has appointed a new prime minister, breaking a political impasse following highly contested elections in the north Asian nation two months ago.

The parliament on Friday approved Tsakhilganiin Elbedgorj of the Motherland Democratic Coalition to lead a new coalition government. The appointment of the U.S.-educated journalist came after a series of negotiations that dragged on for two months between the MDC and the incumbent Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, or MPRP.

The deadlock happened after both parties claimed victory in elections in June, with each side accusing the other of cheating in the race for the parliament's 76 seats.

Under the compromise the two parties have reached, the MDC gets 34 parliament seats and the MPRP 36. Four seats are in the hands of independents, while two remain contested. An MPRP member will become the speaker of parliament.

The two parties hailed the agreement as a good step. MPRP Secretary Yondon Otgonbayar says the impasse threatened to derail the 14-year-old democracy in the former communist nation.

Otgonbayar says the situation following the elections was worrisome to all sides, and it was at times uncertain whether it would be resolved. He says the compromise shows both sides have enough maturity to overcome the impasse, and he calls the agreement a victory for Mongolia.

Analysts in Mongolia say the new prime minister's biggest challenge will be to keep together a parliament that is so evenly divided. Among the top issues facing both sides is fulfilling the campaign promises they made to give cash subsidies to families with children and newlyweds.

The former Soviet satellite suffered a steep economic decline since it emerged from communism in 1990. About half of Mongolia's 2.7 million people are nomadic, and much of the economy depends on animal husbandry. Leaders say they are working to diversify the economic base, and recently invited neighboring China to help develop the country's oil industry.

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