|President of Mongolia|
18 June 2009
|Prime Minister||Sanjaagiin Bayar
|Preceded by||Nambaryn Enkhbayar|
|Prime Minister of Mongolia|
20 August 2004 – 13 January 2006
|Preceded by||Nambaryn Enkhbayar|
|Succeeded by||Miyeegombyn Enkhbold|
23 April 1998 – 9 December 1998
|Preceded by||Mendsaikhany Enkhsaikhan|
|Succeeded by||Janlavyn Narantsatsralt|
30 March 1963 |
Zereg, Khovd, Mongolia
|Political party||Democratic Party|
|Alma mater||Lviv Polytechnic National University (B.A.)
University of Colorado Boulder
Harvard University (MPA)
Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj (Mongolian: Цахиагийн Элбэгдорж, also referred to as Elbegdorj Tsakhia; born 30 March 1963) is a Mongolian politician who has been President of Mongolia since 2009. He previously served as Prime Minister in 1998 and again from 2004 to 2006. Elbegdorj is considered one of the principal champions in emerging markets and was one of the architects of democracy in Mongolia.
Elbegdorj was one of the key leaders of the 1990 Mongolian democratic revolution that ended 70 years of communist rule in Mongolia, and co-drafted the country's 1992 constitution that guaranteed democracy and a free market economy. Elbegdorj has been labeled by his supporters as a "freedom fighter" and the "Golden Sparrow of Democracy," alluding to a bird that comes with spring sunshine after a long, harsh winter.
Elbegdorj is the founder of the Ardchilal (English: Democracy) newspaper - the country's first independent newspaper - and helped to establish the first independent television station in Mongolia.
His tenure has focused on fighting corruption, environmental protection, women's rights, judicial reform, civic engagement, economic liberalization and privatization, property rights, and the abolition of the death penalty.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Leading Democratic movement
- 3 Journalism career
- 4 Legislative career
- 5 Prime Minister
- 6 2009 Presidential election
- 7 2013 Presidential election
- 8 Presidency
- 8.1 Inauguration
- 8.2 Democracy and human rights
- 8.3 Foreign policy
- 8.4 Domestic Policy
- 9 Interviews
- 10 Speeches
- 11 References
- 12 Family and personal life
- 13 Notes
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
Early life and education
Elbegdorj was born into a nomadic herding family in Zereg sum, Khovd province, on 30 March 1963. He was the youngest of eight sons. Elbegdorj spent most of his early childhood herding livestock through the high mountains of Zereg sum. His father, Mongolyn Tsakhia, was a veteran of Mongolia's border conflict with the Empire of Japan that resulted in the 1939 Battle of Khalkhyn Gol. Elbegdorj finished the sum's eight-year school (Primary & middle school) in 1979. Afterwards, his family moved to Erdenet City, and he finished Erdenet's No. 1 ten-year school (High school) in 1981.
Army and USSR's Army Academy
In 1981–82, Elbegdorj worked in copper ore mining and processing plant Erdenet Concern (currently Erdenet Mining Corporation) as a machinist. In 1982 he was drafted into military service. For submitting poems to the army newspaper Ulaan Od, which impressed army authorities, and heading a Revolutionary Youth Unit in the army, he was awarded with the possibility to study military journalism and Marxism-Leninism at the USSR's Military Political Institute (present Army Academy named after Hetman Petro Sahaydachnyi under the umbrella of Lviv Polytechnic National University in Lviv, Ukraine from 1983 on. He graduated from the academy in 1988 with a Bachelor's degree in journalism and then began working for the newspaper Ulaan Od (Red Star).
Harvard Kennedy School
After his first term as prime minister, he spent a year at the University of Colorado Boulder's Economic Institute. Then Elbegdorj studied with a full scholarship at Harvard University and graduated from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government with a Master of Public Administration (MPA) in 2002.
Leading Democratic movement
During his studies in the USSR, Elbegdorj learned about Glasnost, the concepts such as freedom of speech and economic liberties. After returning to Mongolia, he met other like-minded people and tried to present those ideas to a wider audience, despite attempts of repression from the Politburo-authority of the government, and threats by his employer to lose his job. At the end of a speech at the Young Artists' Second National Congress on 28 November 1989, Elbegdorj said that Mongolia needed democracy and appealed to youth to collaborate to create democracy in Mongolia. He told the audience "We consider that Perestroika is a timely and brave step. Youth's contribution to this revolutionary matter is not by supportive talks but by certain work. Our contribution is our objectives to be fulfilled. Our objectives are: ... following democracy and transparency and contributing to glasnost, ... and supporting fair progressive power ... These are the objectives of an initiatives' group-an organization that shall work. After the congress I hope we will gather and discuss with you about it in this (newly forming group). The organization shall be based on public, voluntary and democratic principles."
The chairman of the congress stopped Elbegdorj's speech and warned him not to say such things. It was 1989 and Mongolia had been a communist country for 68 years. At that time, it was alleged that every other person was an unofficial communist party spy who would report people who expressed opinions other than socialism and communism. During the break of the congress, two young individuals met Elbegdorj and the three agreed to found a democratic movement and to secretly spread the news to other young people. Later the three met and united with ten other individuals and they are known as the Thirteen Leaders of Mongolia's Democratic Revolution. On his return from the congress, his boss at the newspaper Ulaan Od warned Elbegdorj that he would be fired if he participated further in any activities out of work or engaged in any conduct inconsistent with communist and socialist ideology. Despite the warning, Elbegdorj and his friends met secretly with other young people in the circle auditorium of the National University of Mongolia and discussed democracy, free market economic policy, and other prohibited subjects of the time, and began to draft a plan to organize a democratic movement. They met many times and brought new friends and new supporters to join them secretly. One night they placed ads of their open demonstration in streets.
On the morning of 10 December 1989, the first open pro-democracy demonstration met in front of the Youth Cultural Center in Ulaanbaatar. There, Elbegdorj announced the creation of the Mongolian Democratic Union. The Mongolian Democratic Union founders publicly petitioned the government for a real implementation of perestroika, including allowing a multi-party system, the total implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in all party and government affairs. In subsequent months activists led by Elbegdorj and others continued to organize demonstrations, rallies, protests and hunger strikes, as well as teachers' and workers' strikes. Activists had growing support from Mongolians, both in the capital and the countryside and the union's activities led to other calls for democracy all over the country.
After numerous demonstrations of many thousands of people in the capital city as well as provincial centers, Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party(MPRP) (present Mongolian People's Party)'s Politburo – the authority of the government eventually gave way to the pressure and entered negotiations with the leaders of the democratic movement. Jambyn Batmönkh, chairman of Politburo of MPRP's Central Committee decided to dissolve the Politburo and to resign on 9 March 1990. This paved the way for the first multi-party elections in Mongolia. Elbegdorj announced this news to the hunger strikers and to people who'd gathered on Sükhbaatar Square at 10PM on that day after the negotiations between leaders of MPRP and Mongolian Democratic Union. As a result, Mongolia became the first Asia country to successfully transition from communist rule to democracy. Elbegdorj worked as the Leader of the Mongolian Democratic Union in 1989–1997.
Elbegdorj worked as a correspondent at Ulaan Od-newspaper of the Mongolian Armed Forces and as a chief of an army literature unit between 1988 and 1990. While in these positions Elbegdorj wrote articles disclosing all the good and bad in the army units and suggested improvements for the army prior to democratic movement's beginning.
Elbegdorj founded Mongolia's first independent newspaper Ardchilal (Democracy) and worked as its first editor-in-chief in 1990. The newspaper played a major role to complete the country's democratic revolution. He co-introduced freedom of press in the country by co-initiating Law on Press Freedom and playing a key role to pass the law in 1998.
Elbegdorj also helped to create Mongolia's first independent TV station Eagle TV in 1994. It was run by the former Mongolian Broadcasting Company, a joint-venture of the U.S. Christian missionary organization AMONG Foundation, and the Mongolia Media Corporation.
Elbegdorj was elected to the Parliament four times, in 1990, 1992, 1996 and 2008. As a Member of People's Congress, Elbegdorj co-drafted and co-adopted Mongolia's new Constitution on 13 January 1992. The new Constitution guaranteed human rights, democracy, freedom of religion, and free speech. An international intellectual once referred Elbegdorj as "Mongolia's Thomas Jefferson." Elbegdorj, as the chairman of the Democratic Party, co-led the Democratic Union Coalition to its historic victory in the 1996 parliamentary elections. He served as the Majority Leader of the State Great Hural (Parliament) in 1996–2000 and as the Vice Speaker of the Parliament in 1996–1998.
Elbegdorj founded and worked as the head of Mongolia's first Entrepreneurs Association in 1991 as well. The association helped to privatize livestock for free to their herders from the socialist collective farms. As a result, the first private property was given to almost half of Mongolia's entire population. He supported the privatization of state-owned properties and assets and land.
While as the chairman of the State Commission on Rehabilitation, Elbegdorj initiated and brought the state to apologize for the victims and families of over 36,000 people that had been persecuted and mass massacred during the years of Mongolian People's Party's communist rule. He played a key role in the approval of the Rehabilitation Law, which provided rehabilitation and compensation to the survivors and families of political victims, and recovery from the Stalinist purges and prohibited future violation of human rights. In addition, the law established a Memorial Day for Political Victims.
Furthermore, Elbegdorj was a member of the National Counseling Committee of the Democratic Party in 1994–2009; leader and chairman of the Democratic Party in 1996–1999, and April 2006 – September 2008 respectively; and chairman of the Democratic Union Coalition of the Mongolian National Democratic Party and Mongolian Social Democratic Party in 1996–2000.
Elbegdorj served as the Prime Minister of Mongolia twice in 1998 and 2004–2006.
First term as Prime Minister
In 1998, a clause in the constitution was removed that prohibited members of parliament to take cabinet responsibility. Thus on 23 April 1998, the Parliament elected (61–6) Elbegdorj as the Prime Minister. During his first term, Elbegdorj attempted to solve looming economic, structural and political issues through several policy initiatives such as co-initiating Law on Press Freedom and playing a key role to pass the law in 1998. Based on this law, another law passed that changed all daily state newspapers into public newspapers without direct control and censorship from the government.
Elbegdorj's most significant achievement during his first term as Prime Minister was to collect tax and create tax income. The biggest tax payer and only significant income contributor to the government's budget at the time was the copper ore mining and processing Erdenet Mining Corporation(EMC) – a joint stock company owned by the governments of Mongolia and the Russian Federation. EMC hadn't paid due tax, income and royalty to Mongolia's government between 1997 and 1998 which resulted in the financial crumbling of the government. Because of it, previous Prime Minister Enkhsaikhan stepped down due to pressure from the opposition party, MPRP. After becoming Prime Minister, Elbegdorj ordered an audit of EMC. The audit result revealed that the state due income did not enter the state account, instead it went to dubious accounts of directors at EMC. This embezzlement case was reported in detail in investigative series "Swindle of the Century" on Eagle television. Elbegdorj dismissed the EMC's chairman. As a result, the government began to receive due tax, royalty and income from the EMC.
In addition, at the recommendations of international financial institutions such as International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – aid granters to Mongolia, and discount interest rate loan giver Asian Development Bank, Elbegdorj made a decision to sell state owned Reconstruction Bank which became illiquid and was experiencing tremendous loss, the biggest financial burden to the economy since its establishment in 1997. Golomt Bank was the only one that offered to buy Reconstruction Bank.
In response to this and the change of EMC's chairman, the minority group at the Parliament MPRP demanded Elbegdorj to resign and thus resulted Elbegdorj to lose confidence vote at the Parliament. The Parliament had prevented Elbegdorj's government from selling the bank. Elbegdorj's decision to sell the Reconstruction Bank was proven to be correct. The bank bankrupted soon after Elbegdorj's first term as prime minister was over and the bankruptcy led the government to suffer gigantic amount of financial loss. Moreover, Elbegdorj made a decision to financially assist from tight budget to complete the construction of Mongolia's first Wrestling Palace which was half built for a long time. He stayed in office until Janlavyn Narantsatsralt replaced him on 9 December 1998.
Elbegdorj served as the chairman of the Majority Group of the Parliament and the leader of the Democratic Union Coalition and a Member of Parliament respectively in 1996-2000.
In 2000-2001, he studied at the University of Colorado Boulder's Economic Institute, and earned a diploma. Then he studied with a full scholarship of Harvard University at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and graduated with a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) in 2002.
Then he worked as a consultant at the Millennium Development Goal Project, United Nations Headquarters in New York and as a consultant at Radio Free Asia in Washington, D.C. in 2002-2003. Afterwards, he returned to Mongolia and made series of public speeches touring in Mongolian provinces inspiring the people and the youth sharing his new ideas and perspectives based on his knowledge from Harvard University and the United States in combination with Mongolian way of life in 2003-2004. His lectures played a significant role to make Democratic Party get majority seats in 2004 Mongolian Parliamentary elections.
Second term as Prime Minister
On 20 August 2004, Elbegdorj became the Prime Minister of Mongolia for the second time. This time he headed a grand coalition government after the vote in the parliamentary elections had been evenly split between the two major political forces – Democratic Coalition and the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party.
U.S. President George W. Bush highlighted about Elbegdorj as one of the country's democracy leaders to have been serving as the Prime Minister in his speech in Ulaanbaatar on 21 November 2005. "The world needs more people such as yourself who are willing to admire liberty," President Bush wrote Elbegdorj immediately after his visit to Mongolia.
During Elbegdorj's term, on 27 January 2005, the government controlled National State Television and Radio were converted into formally independent public organisations with increasingly smaller control by the government. Also, legal provisions that prohibited demonstrations on Ulaanbaatar's Sükhbaatar Square were abolished on 17 November 2005.
In his second term as Prime Minister, Elbegdorj proclaimed a fight against corruption and poverty, which he saw as the biggest challenges to Mongolia's economic development. Elbegdorj's government signed the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in April 2005 and ratified it in January 2006. His administration revealed the Customs chairman's corruption case amounting to millions of dollars from which the ex-chairman donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the MPRP in 2005.
Elbegdorj attempted to support domestic businesses by eliminating excessive regulations, many licensing requirements, and import taxes for key category products. Mongolia was accepted into the European Union's GSP+ system, which allows Mongolian exporters to pay lower customs tariffs when exporting to the European Union during Elbegdorj's term as prime minister.
To promote affordable computers and internet access, Elbegdorj established Information and Communication Agency under the government. He subsidized and supported technical schools and specialized professions to reduce unemployment. By a decision of his government English replaced Russian as the first foreign language to be taught in public schools. In addition, Elbegdorj initiated the erection of the Genghis Khan memorial complex in front of Mongolia's government house for the 800th Anniversary of the Great Mongol Empire. Besides, Elbegdorj initiated a "Green Wall" environmental project to plant trees in barren areas and desert zones to prevent from massive sandstorms from Mongolia reaching to North America and to reduce air pollution.
In August 2005, Elbegdorj wanted to run in by-elections in Ulaanbaatar's Bayangol district. However, the MPRP threatened to leave the coalition if Elbegdorj ran against MPRP candidate Miyeegombyn Enkhbold, and Elbegdorj withdrew. On 13 January 2006, the MPRP left the coalition anyway, and Elbegdorj was forced to resign. The MPRP proceeded to form a new government with the help of DP defectors and independent MPs, and Miyeegombyn Enkhbold became the new prime minister. The events triggered protests from some civic groups and their followers. Mongolian economy had real GDP growth of 10.4% in 2004, 7.3% in 2005 and 8.6% in 2006 respectively during Elbegdorj's second term as Prime Minister comparing to 7% in 2003 prior to Elbegdorj's government.
2009 Presidential election
At the Democratic Party's convention on 3 April 2009, Elbegdorj defeated Erdeniin Bat-Üül in a contest for the Party's nomination for the Presidency of Mongolia. Elbegdorj won with 65.3% of the total vote. After Elbegdorj was announced as the candidate, the Civic Will Party and the Mongolian Green Party endorsed Elbegdorj's presidential candidacy.
Elbegdorj won the 2009 Mongolian presidential election on 24 May 2009 with 51.21% of the votes. Defeating incumbent president Enkhbayar who got 47.41%. Elbegdorj was sworn into office as President of Mongolia on 18 June 2009.
2013 Presidential election
The Democratic Party's National Consultative Committee held its convention on 7 May 2013 and decided to re-nominate Elbegdorj as a presidential candidate with 100% votes. And the Congress of Democratic Party, with 7,000 participants in Ulaanbaatar plus participants in all provincial centers connected via live internet video conference voted 100% for Elbegdorj's nomination from the Democratic Party for the 2013 presidential election on 8 May 2013. Civil Will-Green Party and Mongolian National Democratic Party - which have seats at both the parliament and the government cabinet - endorsed Elbegdorj's presidential candidacy. The Republican Party and the Motherland Party expressed their full support for Elbegdorj's candidacy also.
Elbegdorj won the 2013 Mongolian presidential election on 26 June 2013 with 50.23% of total votes while opposition Mongolian People's Party's candidate Badmaanyambuugiin Bat-Erdene received 41.97%, and Natsagiin Udval, candidate of Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party got 6.5% of total votes.
Reaction to election result
U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement on presidential election in Mongolia on 27 June 2013, the same day the election result was announced. President Obama stated: "President Elbegdorj has been an important leader in advancing democracy and freedom in his country and a key partner for the United States in Asia and globally ... Through its impressive democratic achievements and its progress on economic liberalization, Mongolia serves as a significant example of positive reform and transformation for peoples around the world."
Vuk Jeremić, President of the United Nations General Assembly for the 67th session expressed satisfaction with the fair and successful election in his congratulations to Elbegdorj on 27 June 2013. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon congratulated for successful Presidential election in Mongolia in his congratulatory message to Elbegdorj.
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said "The European Commission considers that the presidential election has become another vital step of the Mongolian people to establish a democratic society that respects the rule of law and human rights" in his congratulatory note to Elbegdorj on 28 June 2013. German Chancellor Angela Merkel pointed out "The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe sent its group to Mongolia for the first time to observe the presidential election, and it was an expression of strengthening democracy and transparency in Mongolia," in her congratulations to Elbegdorj.
Elbegdorj won the Mongolian presidential elections twice: on 24 May 2009; and 26 June 2013. Elbegdorj was sworn into office on 18 June 2009 for his first term, and on 10 July 2013 for his second term as President of Mongolia. Elbegdorj is Mongolia's first president to never have been a member of the former communist Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party and the first to obtain a Western education.
Elbegdorj was sworn into office for his first term as President of Mongolia in State House in front of the Parliament and guests on 18 June 2009. His inauguration ceremony included his address to the nation and a military parade on Sükhbaatar Square. The United States Senate passed Resolution Number 192 supporting Mongolia's democracy and economic development and noting Elbegdorj's election victory on the day he was sworn in on 18 June 2009.
For his second term as President of Mongolia, Elbegdorj was sworn into office in front of Chinggis Khaan (also referred as Genghis Khan) monument, Nine White Banners of Mongolia, the Parliament and public on Sükhbaatar Square on 10 July 2013. This is the first time a Mongolian president made an oath in front of public in the country's history. After making an oath, he addressed to the nation, and a military parade followed. Nobel Peace Laureate, co-founder of the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union Solidarity, former Polish President Lech Wałęsa attended Elbegdorj's second inauguration as President.
Democracy and human rights
Presidency of the Community of Democracies
Elbegdorj served as a chair of the Community of Democracies from 2011 to 2013, an intergovernmental coalition of democratic countries to which Mongolia is a participating member. Under his presidency, Mongolia successfully organized the VII Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies with democracy icon guest speakers namely chairperson of the National League for Democracy in Burma and Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, "Mother of the Revolution" of 2011 Yemeni uprising and Nobel Peace Laureate Tawakkol Karman, Elbegdorj, Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and more on 27–29 April 2013. The conference had over 1300 participants from more than 100 countries and issued Ulaanbaatar Declaration "Community's Attainments and Global Challenges."
Within the coalition, Elbegdorj led initiatives such as Zero Tolerance to Corruption and Education for Democracy and spoke on behalf of the initiatives at the 66th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on 21 September 2011. He worked with the coalition members to form an agenda to consolidate civil society and strengthen democracy.
Advocating democracy and human rights
Elbegdorj is a frequent lecturer on democracy and human rights, both domestically and abroad. Elbegdorj said "It is a human desire to live free that is an eternal power" at Kim Il Sung University in North Korea. Elbegdorj remarked "I truly believe in freedom for each and every individual" at the Bundestag. One of his latest public speeches is "Myanmar and Mongolia: On the Road to Freedom and Democracy" made jointly with Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in Ulaanbaatar on 30 April 2013. Aung San Suu Kyi publicly expressed her appreciation in person to Elbegdorj for having been a strong voice in Asia for her release from house arrest in Myanmar (Burma) until her release. At the ASEM8 Summit on 3 October 2010, Elbegdorj openly called on Myanmar's authorities to free Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, and not long after she was released.
In 2012, following his talks at the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan and meeting with Kyrgyz NGO leaders and students to share Mongolia's experience towards democracy for two decades, Elbegdorj began the establishment of the Democratic Transition Assistance Foundation of Mongolia. The new initiative calls for the allocation of certain funds from Mongolian budget to be used to support democratic transitions in Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan along with economic reforms in countries such as North Korea and Myanmar while using Mongolia's democratic reform and consolidation as a model. In the summer of 2012 the foundation hosted several delegation from Kyrgyzstan, North Korea and Myanmar to study from Mongolia's experience of judicial reform and mineral legislation.
To encourage the adoption of democratic governance in Asian countries, Elbegdorj, along with Korean President Lee Myung Bak, started the Asian Partnership for Democracy initiative in 2011 as an arm of the Community of Democracies with a particular focus on the region in which Mongolia is one of the longest standing democracies.
Elbegdorj condemned the violence in Syria and called on world leaders to unify to end the bloodshed. He criticized the attack on the US Embassy in Libya by saying "The mission of diplomacy is peaceful. Attacking diplomatic compounds are violation of both the letter and spirit of international law," in his address to the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly on 27 September 2012. The U.S. Foreign Policy Association and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) awarded Elbegdorj with New York Democracy Forum's Presidential Medal on 22 September 2011. The award recognized "the vital role Elbegdorj played in Mongolia's historic democratic revolution in 1989, the country's successful democratic transition, the consolidation of its new democratic institutions and his solidarity with other democrats in Asia, the Middle East and other regions."
In 2000 Elbegdorj founded Mongolia's Liberty Center, a non-governmental organization advocating human rights, freedom of expression and education. Elbegdorj spoke at many democracy conferences including "Re-founding America" conference sponsored by the International Society for Individual Liberty in Williamsburg, Virginia, United States in 2007 prior to his presidency.
Direct democracy and civic participation
In 2009, Elbegdorj opened the Citizens' Hall - a public hearing forum which encourages the participation of Mongolian citizens in the parliament's decision making. In each proceeding, citizens are given time to speak and express their opinion on pending legislation. The hall is open to any of Mongolia's 2.9 million people and is located in Ulaanbaatar; some additional halls have been opened in other provinces. They are designed to encourage civil participation to have consensus between legislators and citizens before any open issue becomes law.
Elbegdorj emphasized "Democracy is about empowering the people and not bestowing power to someone," "The time has come to transfer to the discretion of the people, to the business and professional communities especially in the countryside the power to make decisions for themselves and to engage in businesses and services they are naturally entitled to," "The progress and prosperity of a civil society is defined not by centralization of power, but with transfer of rights, effective exercise of the rights by people," in his inaugural address for his first term as President.
Elbegdorj created a concept for decentralization: increasing local powers with civic participation, creating local development funds, and giving financial support to local authorities from central government budget. He submitted the concept to the Parliament to make it a part of new Organic Budget Law and the law was passed with the part. When the bill was under discussion, the Presidential Office in collaboration with the Budget Standing Committee of the Parliament organized "Empowering Local Administration with Civic Participation" forum with guest speakers from Direct Democracy Center in Switzerland at Elbegdorj's invitation on 27 May 2011. The center's director also lectured on "Local level structure of direct democracy in Switzerland" to Mongolian students. Then Elbegdorj's office developed a policy document reflecting suggestions of citizens discussed in the Citizens' Hall and Elbegdorj issued a decree to approve "Medium and long term national policy document on decentralization through direct democracy and civic participation."
Then, from 8 September 2012 through April 2013, his office jointly with local governments and parliaments organized nationwide training "Direct democracy - Budget management with civic participation" for ordinary citizens, civil servants and local authorities about how citizens can participate in local government budget spending from local development funds to decide life in their localities. Elbegdorj said "citizen participation and monitoring are still missing in the public decision making. There cannot be a civil society without citizen participation," in his remarks at the National Diet of Japan in 2010.
Elbegdorj has long been an advocate for women's rights and more proportional representation of women in decision making level of governments. He stressed the importance of women in leadership, highlighting the three-fold increase of women representatives elected in the 2012 Mongolian parliamentary elections in his speech at the UN General Assembly in September 2012. "We need more women leaders. Women tend to see the whole picture. For society to advance, we need more women in public service at all levels – local to global. They bring an unique perspective often missing in global challenges," Elbegdorj said "Have you ever heard of a woman bloody dictator or tyrant? I think not. If there were more women in power, I think we would have more harmony, more engagement and less suffering and less conflict."
On 9 July 2012 during the meeting with Elbegdorj in Ulaanbaatar, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Mongolia's recent parliamentary elections in which nine women were elected and applauded Mongolia for its "courage" in building a democratic system in a country surrounded by Russia and China. "Mongolia encourages women’s involvement in the political system with the intention of improving their role in society" Elbegdorj said in his lecture at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam in November 2013. In the 2013 Mongolian Presidential election, Natsagiin Udval, Mongolia's first female presidential contender ran against Elbegdorj. Elbegdorj said "Public policies on social welfare or protection should reflect kindness and tenderness of mothers," in his public lecture at Yangon University in Yangon, Myanmar.
Abolition of capital punishment
On 14 January 2010, Elbegdorj announced that he would, henceforth, systematically use his prerogative to pardon all persons sentenced to death. He stated that most countries in the world had abolished the death penalty, and Mongolia should follow their example. He suggested that capital punishment would be commuted to a thirty year prison sentence. The decision was controversial; when Elbegdorj announced it in Parliament, MPRP representatives did not give the applause customarily due after a presidential speech. (See: Capital punishment in Mongolia)
Elbegdorj stated "Capital punishment is wrong–it degrades human dignity. It brings no peace to society. It does not deter crime and does not lift up mankind," in his speech at the High-Level Meeting on the Rule of Law of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly on 24 September 2012. "By ratifying the Second Optional Protocol Mongolia would add yet one more country in the world community to fully abolish the death penalty. Pardoning a life does not mean pardoning a penalty. The punishment for serious and cruel felonies must be severe, and must be just. However, I do not think it is just to deprive any citizens of life in the name of state. The right to life is one of the fundamental rights of a human being and cannot depend on anyone, not even on the head of state. The state should respect very fundamental human rights, and secure them by law," Elbegdorj pointed out in his greeting to the delegation of the 5th international meeting of Justice Ministers on 18 May 2010.
Four months after Elbegdorj's announcement of a moratorium of death penalty by his pardon, a survey was conducted among Mongolian legal academics asking whether it is right or wrong to abolish death penalty in Mongolia. 83% of the survey participants responded that it was wrong. They criticized "By pardoning death row inmates, the Mongolian President directly interferes in criminal procedures. Nobody has the right to change court rulings." According to Article 33.1.8 of the Constitution, Mongolian president has the prerogative "to grant pardon." Some academics and critics considered that it is too early and wrong to abolish death penalty in Mongolia, explaining that murder crimes are becoming too brutal and severe since the death penalty would not be implemented.
Despite much criticism from domestic conservative politicians, the opposition, and critics, Elbegdorj's decision was positively received internationally. Amnesty International noted "President Elbegdorj's actions demonstrate commitment to the protection of human rights and set a good example for other Asian countries in the region," on 18 February 2010. International organization "Hands off Cain" awarded Elbegdorj with "Abolitionist of the Year 2011" noting Mongolia as an example that fosters the right to life among Asian countries.
Finally, in 2012, the Mongolian parliament amended a law to join the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, making Mongolia a state party to the convention and reinforcing the country's commitment to the abolition of capital punishment.
About foreign policy, "Mongolia shall remain an active member of the international community and shall actively cooperate in addressing regional and global challenges," Elbegdorj emphasized in his inaugural address for his first term as President of Mongolia on 18 June 2013. Also he noted that Mongolia shall foster and expand cooperation with the country's two neighbors and "third neighbors," in the same address. "Mongolia shall consistently continue her traditional foreign policies enriched with new content and dimensions," he stated in the same speech.
Elbegdorj reiterated "Mongolia shall continue her open and pro-active engagement and cooperation at the regional and international fora," "Mongolia shall continue her constructive cooperation with other countries and international organizations. We shall work to promote mutually beneficial and constructive decisions in bilateral relations with our neighbors in infrastructure, investment, trade, transit transport and other pending issues," in his inaugural address for his second term as President on 10 July 2013. Elbegdorj praised the choice of the Kyrgyz people for parliamentary governance and their resolute struggle for freedom and justice in his speech at the Kyrgyz Parliament in April 2012. Following traditional friendly relations with North Korea, Elbegdorj has a good relationship with North Korea. 50,000 North Korean football fans cheered Elbegdorj in a stadium for his football kick during his official visit to North Korea in October 2013.
Elbegdorj has committed Mongolia to be nuclear-free and a nuclear free world as a principal component of his foreign policy agenda. The United Nations Security Council recognized Mongolia's nuclear-weapon-free status on 17 September 2012 despite the fact that it cannot join one of the World's Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zones, in part, because of the country's close proximity to nuclear-armed states Russia and China. Mongolia renounced nuclear materials and became a member of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in 2013 and UN General Assembly's President Vuk Jeremic congratulated Elbegdorj for these.
Elbegdorj made international headlines in 2012 after being the first world leader invited to visit the Iranian nuclear facility in Natanz. After his visit, he stressed "the program has to be transparent to the world; in particular, the program must be under permanent supervision of the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran's nuclear program must not endanger or cause threat to the interests and security of regional peace as well as of any other nation. Mongolia remains committed to safeguarding her nuclear free status, supported by the special UN resolutions. Mongolia will seek to contribute to securing universal peace by fully banning nuclear weapons in East Asia and the world at large."
Opposing to storing nuclear waste in Mongolia, Elbegdorj said "We ... firmly oppose to storing nuclear waste on Mongolian soil," in his speech at the High-Level Meeting on the Rule of Law of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly on 24 September 2012. Before, he noted it in his speech at the General Debate of the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly on 21 September 2011.
Participation in UN Peacekeeping operations
As commander-in-chief of the Mongolian Armed Forces, Elbegdorj supports Mongolia's commitment and participation in United Nations Peacekeeping operations. Since 2001, Mongolian troops have participated in international peacekeeping missions in Iraq, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Congo, Eritrea, Chad, Darfur, Western Sahara, Georgia, and Afghanistan. Under Elbegdorj's presidency, Mongolia became one of the top 20 peacekeeping contributors to the United Nations peacekeeping missions in 2009. Elbegdorj visited South Sudan to encourage Mongolian soldiers on 15 February 2013.
"Elbegdorj's visit was the first to South Sudan by a head of state from outside Africa. His visit is also the first from a country contributing troops to the UN mission," Hiruy Amanuel, chief political affairs representative at UNMISS said. As an officer in the Mongolian Armed Forces, Elbegdorj's son Erdene Elbegdorj participated in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan from March to November 2013.
In addition, as an active member of the UN peacekeeping missions, "Mongolia stands committed to enhancing its contribution, including through hosting training for civil police and medical personnel at its training center," Elbegdorj stated at the General Debate of the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly on 28 September 2009.
Foreign investment policy
About foreign investment policy, Elbegdorj stated "I stand open to cooperate with responsible, transparent and law-obedient investors aligned with the development interests of Mongolia," in his inaugural address for his second term as the country's President on 10 July 2013. Furthermore, while speaking about judicial reforms to protect domestic and foreign investors, Elbegdorj said "Our goal is to change it from a system that serves those in power to one that serves the public. It is important to note that when we say 'the people' we are also referring to our foreign investment partners."
The United States Senate passed Resolution Number 208 on the occasion of Elbegdorj's visit to the United States on 15 June 2011. The resolution title is "Expressing the sense of the Senate regarding Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj's visit to Washington, D.C., and its support for the growing partnership between the United States and Mongolia." The resolution noted "Whereas on May 24, 2009, the people of Mongolia completed the country's fourth free, fair, and peaceful democratic election, which resulted in the election of opposition Democratic Party candidate Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj." The Senate's resolution resolved "It is the sense of the Senate that Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj's historic visit to Washington, D.C. cements the growing friendship between the governments and peoples of the United States and Mongolia; the continued commitment of the Mongolian people and the Government of Mongolia to advancing democratic reforms, strengthening transparency and the rule of law, and protecting investment deserves acknowledgment and celebration."
Elbegdorj initiated and co-hosted with the World Economic Forum "Fair Mineral Development" roundtable in Ulaanbaatar in June 2010. It was the first multi-stakeholder meeting in the mineral resource rich country focusing on determining the key stakeholders for negotiating mineral development agreements, and decision-making authorities in the licensing negotiation process; transparency issues in the negotiation process; issues related to land tenure, royalties and taxes; reopening and renegotiation of mineral agreements; dispute resolution mechanisms; and revenue distribution, work force and community development. With the World Economic Forum, Elbegdorj co-organized second roundtable "Responsible Mineral Development Initiative" in the Citizens' Hall under the Office of the President of Mongolia during the Mongolia Economic Forum on 3–4 March 2011. "More and more mineral development agreements are expected for Mongolia in this century," Elbegdorj noted in his opening remarks at this second roundtable. He highlighted "Supporting sustainable development and making the minerals sector beneficial to the people and the country's development, while working in good cooperation with foreign investors, and making the government's operations transparent to the public are some of the issues of utmost concern for countries such as ours."
Dinosaur fossil return
Nearly complete eight feet tall and 24 feet long rare Tarbosaurus T. bataar dinosaur's skeleton scavenged from Mongolia was announced to be auctioned at Heritage Auctions in New York City on 20 May 2012 with asking price of one million dollars. Fossils found in Mongolia are the property of Mongolia and its people by law. Receiving a complaint from a Mongolian paleontologist, Elbegdorj promptly filed a lawsuit claiming the illegally smuggled skeleton from Mongolia in the United States Court through his American lawyer. Elbegdorj won the case with the professional help of internationally well known American and Mongolian paleontologists. The U.S. authorities handed the fossils to the Mongolian party in May 2013 after the case was resolved. The skeleton along with other dinosaur fossils those returned together to Mongolia was on display to public on main Sükhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar for a few months. This is the first lawsuit ever claimed abroad by a Mongolian president. The dinosaur fossil dealer pleaded guilty and faced sentencing of up to 17 years in prison in the USA.
Elbegdorj's presidential actions have focused on advocating anti-corruption measures. "I sincerely believe that the true enemy of democracy and freedom is corruption ... The worst theft is corruption which damages people's common rights and liberties ... I am convinced that fighting corruption must be one of the most important duties of the Mongolian State today," Elbegdorj noted. Previously, during his two terms as a prime minister, he worked to uncover and eliminate several corruption scandals including his handling of the Erdenet Mining Corporation's embezzlement scandal in 1998, and his administration dug out the Customs chairman's corruption case in 2005. In September 2009 Elbegdorj replaced the Community Council of Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC) formed by former President Nambaryn Enkhbayar which included sports and music stars and supreme clergy while expressing his dissatisfaction with its investigation of petty corruption instead of political level corruption. He then reorganized the council with professional lawyers.
To create a dialogue among different stakeholders in the natural resources and mining community to stop corruption Elbegdorj opened a roundtable in Ulaanbaatar in collaboration with the World Economic Forum's Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) in March 2011. The meeting brought together top executives of Mongolian industries and NGOs to discuss anti-corruption initiatives in Mongolia. Moreover, he encouraged the parliament to take actions to prevent from corruption and jointly organized with the parliament's State Standing Committee and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance "Policy Reform and the Funding of Political Activities" forum.
Elbegdorj sees Chinggis Khaan (also referred to as Genghis Khan) as a leader from whom to learn for anti-corruption efforts. He said that Genghis Khan sought equal protection under the law for all citizens regardless of status or wealth. "Chinggis ... was a man who deeply realized that the justice begins and consolidates with the equality of law, and not with distinctions between people. He was a man who knew that good laws and rules lived longer than fancy palaces," Elbegdorj highlighted in his speech on the 850th anniversary of Chinggis Khaan's birth.
"The crime called corruption is committed by public servants, and not citizens," Elbegdorj pointed out at the High-Level Meeting on the Rule of Law of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly on 24 September 2012. "Today we put an end to ... amorality. We cannot afford to let Mongolia's future be tortured by corrupt officials for another year, another decade ... We must put an end to this," Elbegdorj pointed out in his first inaugural address. Thus under Elbegdorj's presidency, embezzlement and corruption cases amounting from millions to hundreds of millions of dollars, ranging from misappropriation of state properties and assets such as a printing factory, buildings, funds and taxes have been tried and the courts convicted high level statesmen including a former president of Mongolia, a former chairman of Mineral Resources Authority, ex-chairmen of state owned Mongolian Airlines MIAT and their allies. In addition, big scale corruption cases involving suspects such as former health and education ministers, former deputy chairman of Tax Authority are under investigation.
Mongolia's corruption perception ranking reduced by 26 places in one year from 2011 to 2012 comparing to the 120th place to the 94th according to Transparency International. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton applauded Elbegdorj and Mongolia on the country's democratic progress and efforts to end corruption in her speech at the International Women's Leadership Forum in Ulaanbaatar on 9 July 2012.
By the Constitution of Mongolia, the President of Mongolia appoints the justices and judges of all levels of courts of Mongolia. Elbegdorj convened "Judicial Reform and Justice" Forum in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in April 2011. Mongolian parliament passed a package law on judicial reform submitted by Elbegdorj in 2011. Those laws designed to ensure impartiality of judges and justices and created a merit-based system for the selection of new judges and justices. In addition, the judicial reform allows citizens' representatives to participate in court hearings and trials and requires that all judicial decisions be placed on internet open for public.
The United Nations Environmental Programme awarded Elbegdorj as a Champion of the Earth for his commitment to environmental protection on 4 June 2012. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon highly appreciates Elbegdorj's contribution to the international community's efforts for ensuring sustainable development and keeping climate change issues under control, as he emphasized in his congratulatory note to Elbegdorj for his re-election as President of Mongolia on 2 July 2013. In addition, Elbegdorj worked as a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Climate Change for the year of 2011.
Elbegdorj declared a day as Tree Planting Day by decree on 4 April 2010 and has been organizing a tree planting campaign around the country. On that day organizations and people plant trees to alleviate desertification in Mongolia. Many non-governmental organizations and social networks support Elbegdorj's call to plant trees. He ordered schools to have environmental subjects in schools' curricula. With support from his office, students began to plant and take care of trees they planted around their schools and television serials on planting trees have been broadcast. On 14 May 2011, Tree Planting Day, Mongolians planted two million trees. The event became a tradition of planting two million trees on every Tree Planting Day annually. In addition, his policy includes environmentally friendly policy in mining industry.
At the invitation of Elbegdorj, the World Economic Forum-Water Resources Group and Office of the President of Mongolia co-organized the Water Secure Future in Mongolia conference in Ulaanbaatar on 3 June 2011 in which over 100 government officials, parliamentarians, civil society and private sector representatives participated to find ways to safeguard Mongolia's scarce water resources in the context of its rapid economic growth. They discussed about water use in the mining, agricultural and municipal sectors, shared case studies of international good practice for boosting water efficiency and ways of safeguarding Mongolia's water supplies. As a result, Elbegdorj and Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of the World Economic Forum-Water Resources Group and Member of the World Economic Forum Foundation Board, committed to form a Mongolian Water Alliance of key government entities, civil society representatives and private sector participants to support the transformation of Mongolia's water sector. Elbegdorj defined the purpose of the alliance by saying "Managing our future water needs is key to sustaining Mongolia's economic growth. We must ensure fast and effective implementation of our National Water Plan. We will benefit from the international networks and experience of the Water Resources Group to help us do so."
Elbegdorj introduced the Smart Government platform at the publicly broadcast event, “From A Big Government To A Smart Government” in 16 November 2013. Elbegdorj defines “smart government” as a combination of skilled people, technological advancements, research, and laws that all add up to creating a new mindset of how government must serve its citizens and enable (and not hinder) private sector development. The Smart Government program strives to reduce government involvement in business and economic matters, bolster property rights, modernize legal framework of the country, streamline the bureaucratic process, and combat corruption to further promote long-term sustainable growth in Mongolia. Shortly after its introduction, the Members of the Parliament of Mongolia expressed their “full and unwavering support of the goal to move to a smart government.”
Elbegdorj's Smart Government Program has fifteen key initiatives as follows:
- Enhance all government systems, policies and operations in conformity with the values of democracy and principles of market economy;
- Ensure the integrity and cohesion of the state policies and actions;
- Reform the organization, operations and processes of public service and institute accountability mechanisms at every level of the government;
- Improve the capacities and efficiency of the public service;
- Eliminate government participation in business activities;
- Affirm our full and unwavering support of the goal to make political discourse immune to business influences;
- Intensify the fight against corruption;
- Support domestic industries;
- Ensure economic growth by securing property rights and supporting private sector;
- Create government structures based on rule of law and provide for inclusiveness, producing research-based decisions and services;
- Instill the discipline to honor/implement contracts;
- Support direct democracy, sovereignty of local governments and local development funds;
- Create a long-term national development strategies and codify it by law;
- Improve the election law;
- Introduce information technologies to streamline and modernize government.
On 20 May 2013, Elbegdorj issued a decree that directed the government to provide financial support to Mongolian students to study at the world's top universities. By the implementation of the decree, Mongolian students accepted at the world's top 20 universities will receive funding from the government regardless of their major, and those accepted at the world's top 100 universities will be financed by the government if their major is included in the government's preferred profession list.
Elbegdorj vetoed a section of a law amendment that would have increased his salary; in return, he submitted a bill to the Parliament to give allowance as salary from government to all Mongolian students studying in Mongolia. The law was passed and all Mongolian students studying at any university or college in Mongolia have received monthly allowances of 70,000 tugrugs since 2011 and the allowance may be increased to 96,000 tugrugs as per government decision in September 2013.
Elbegdorj was a member of the board of directors of "Young Leader" foundation of Mongolia in 1992–2009 and a member of the director's board of the Mongolian Academy of Political Education in 1993–2009.
Campaign to stop alcoholism
Elbegdorj has been calling for a curb on the abuse of alcohol in Mongolia. Under his auspices and in collaboration with his office, civil society and non-governmental organizations organized many activities such as the Alcohol-Free Mongolia campaign. Elbegdorj banned the use of all alcoholic beverages at state dinners and state ceremonies under his name. Also he called upon government and its agencies not to serve alcohol at official ceremonies and functions. The World Health Organization awarded Elbegdorj its Regional Director's special recognition plaque. The award honors the public health leadership of a country leader and it is the first award for alcohol control in the Western Pacific Region.
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Family and personal life
Elbegdorj met Khajidsurengiin Bolormaa at a Mongolian students' party in Lviv, Ukraine when they were students. After their marriage in Ulaanbaatar, their first son was born in Lviv, Ukraine. They helped over 300 orphans through their Bolor Foundation. They adopted twenty children from the state run Orphan Care Center (orphanage) in Ulaanbaatar after being the children's patrons for some time. Now they have twenty five children: four sons of their own and twenty one adopted children.
Elbegdorj became the first president to dive to the bottom of the world's deepest lake, Baikal, in the Mir-1 mini-submersible on 16 July 2010. "Elbegdorj is a risk-taker and puts others' needs before his own. A long-time (U.S.) Embassy employee recalled Elbegdorj accompanying the embassy officials on a trip to deliver humanitarian assistance to the countryside during a winter disaster in the 1990s. The road was snowed under, and Elbegdorj volunteered to go ahead to check for alternate routes, despite freezing conditions and deep snow," a U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia described Elbegdorj in his confidential wire to the U.S. authorities that was leaked to Wikileaks.
Due to being president, in 2012 Elbegdorj asked his elder brother Arslandorj to give up from his new position as a director of City Landscaping Department of Ulaanbaatar City though Arslandorj had worked there for more than 20 years before his brother's presidency. Long time Democratic Party member Arslandorj quit his career at his brother's request. Arlsandorj is upset about stopping his professional career due to his brother's top political position. Arslandorj said: "As a brother, I followed to protect and helped Elbegdorj in difficult times, when Elbegdorj was facing life threatening risks during his co-organizing and co-leading the 1990 Mongolian democratic revolution." Arslandorj said that he would establish a private company specialized in his profession in future.
Also Elbegdorj tweeted announcing his job search in Mongolia for his eldest son Orgil who got Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry from Virginia Commonwealth University in the United States. The son got a job at a private pharmaceutical company in Mongolia later. Elbegdorj's second son Erdene works in the Mongolian Armed Forces and served in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan from March to November 2013.
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