Mongolian lawmakers are debating whether to dissolve the coalition government after more than half the cabinet resigned this week. The move appears to be a power play by Mongolia's former Communists.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaator, demanding that the formerly communist Mongolian People's Revolution Party reverse its decision to quit the government.
The MPRP triggered a political crisis Wednesday when its 10 ministers resigned from the 18-member cabinet of Prime Minister Elbegdorj. They say it is impossible to work in such a diverse coalition.
The former Communists have been sharing power with the three-party Motherland Democracy Coalition since 2004, when it took weeks to form a government after hotly contested parliamentary elections.
Mongolia's leaders have said all along that the coalition has been an uneasy one. However, on a visit to Beijing late last year, President Enkhbayar of the MPRP pledged his country remained committed to democratic principles despite what he said are "challenges and problems."
"We try to be a responsible, democratic country in this part of the world, and try to show to the small countries and other countries in the region and also in the world that there is nothing [to be] scared [of in] becoming a democratic country and a market-oriented economy," he said.
The former Communist state has drawn praise from U.S. officials for its transition to democracy and free trade. President Bush, who last November was the first sitting American leader to visit Mongolia, called the central Asian nation an "example of success" for the region and the world.
Mongolia is among the nations that have joined the United States in deploying troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.