Mongolian parliament ousts prime minister in latest reshuffle

ULAANBAATAR (Reuters) - Mongolia’s parliament voted to oust Prime Minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat, its website said late on Thursday, after his ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) was defeated in a July presidential election.

No prime minister of Mongolia, a thinly populated and mineral-rich country sandwiched between Russia and China, has completed a four-year term since 2004.

Of 73 members of parliament attending the vote, 42 were in favor of Erdenebat’s removal.

The outgoing prime minister noted that the country had seen 13 governments in the last 25 years.

“The resignation of a government in a democratic parliament is a normal occurrence, but it can be harmful if a good thing goes beyond its norms,” Erdenebat said in a statement on parliament’s website.

A former Soviet satellite, Mongolia transitioned to a parliamentary democracy in 1990.

“I believe that dismissing government is a mistake that hinders the development of the country, rather than a positive mechanism of accountability,” Erdenebat said.

The MPP gained power in mid-2016 in elections in which it won 65 of parliament’s 76 seats.

It is expected to hold a party congress to choose new leadership, said Dale Choi, an analyst and head of Altan Bumba Financial Group in Ulaanbaatar.

“I don’t think it means instability” for the government, he said.

“I think it means internal party politics. It’s clearing the party’s decks after a monumental, unexpected presidential loss.”

Last month, some 30 members of the parliament, or State Ikh Khural, signed a petition calling for Erdenebat’s resignation in the aftermath of the presidential vote, which was won by populist former martial arts star and businessman Khaltmaa Battulga of the opposition Democratic Party.

The defeat was seen as a rejection of the MPP government’s austerity policies and a reaction to allegations of corruption.

In Mongolia’s parliamentary democracy, the prime minister is the leader of the government, and the president has limited powers including the ability to veto legislation and to propose laws to parliament.

Higher coal prices this year have helped the resource-dependent economy gain momentum. But earlier this year, a slump in foreign investment and declining commodity prices forced Mongolia to agree to a $5.5 billion economic bailout led by the International Monetary Fund, to relieve fiscal strains and try to restore investor confidence.

Reporting by Terrence Edwards in ULAANBAATAR; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Mark Trevelyan