June 7 (Reuters) - Former Mongolian president Nambar Enkhbayar has been barred from participating in parliamentary elections later this month following his arrest on corruption charges in April, members of his family told Reuters on Thursday.
Enkhbayar, who served as president of the landlocked central Asian country from 2005 to 2009, was released on bail on May 14 and hoped to contest a seat in the June 28 vote.
Resource-rich Mongolia is in the middle of a mining boom that is set to transform its tiny economy, but political uncertainties have threatened to overshadow its efforts to attract the foreign investment needed to develop mines and build vital infrastructure.
Legislators are due to deliberate on a series of vital new laws and will also need to approve plans to develop and finance the 7.5 billion-tonne Tavan Tolgoi coal project near the Chinese border.
Enkhbayar wants to review a landmark 2009 deal that gave 66 percent of the huge Oyu Tolgoi copper project to Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines, and also says the Tavan Tolgoi coal mine - expected to be listed on overseas stock exchanges next year - should remain in Mongolian hands.
Politicians are under constant pressure to be seen to getting a good deal for the country from resources investors.
The General Elections Committee said Enkhbayar did not comply with a clause in the election law stipulating that candidates “have sufficient knowledge, experience, capability and dedication to apply all of his or her intellect and effort for the welfare of the Mongolian people”.
The former president’s son, Batshugar, has also been removed from the list of nominations after failing to make himself available for military service, a charge his family denies.
Polls conducted before his arrest showed Enkhbayar to be the most popular figure taking part in the vote, and his Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) was expected to be a key power broker in the next parliament.
Enkhbayar and his lawyers have vigorously denied a series of corruption charges against him that date back more than a decade, saying that his arrest was politically motivated. His trial has been postponed twice and is now expected to begin on June 12.
Ulan Bator-based Frontier Securities said in a note that while the decision to exclude Enkhbayar was made independently, it was clear that the authorities had made “efforts to neutralise Enkhbayar, the key anti-ruling party father figure”.
“At the same, in the long run, we believe there is (a) positive message of equality of all before the law and the rule of law which would be a positive influence for Mongolia and investors,” it said. (Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Nick Macfie)