Mongolia awaited results of parliamentary elections Friday after voters took to the polls, with both main parties pledging to share the spoils of a divisive mining boom.
ULAN BATOR –
Polls closed at 8:00 pm (1200 GMT) Thursday and results were expected to be announced Friday, the government said, thanks to an electronic voting system introduced to increase transparency.
Previously it had taken weeks to collate election results, with accusations of vote-rigging in 2008 leading to riots that left four dead.
Mongolia's economy has exploded in recent years as mining giants such as Rio Tinto and China's Shenhua moved in to exploit the vast, landlocked nation's huge and largely untapped reserves of coal, copper and gold.
The economy grew by 17.3 per cent last year and foreign investment quadrupled to $5 billion.
But the least well-off among Mongolia's 2.8 million people often complain that they are reaping few benefits of the boom, corruption is worsening among the elite and foreign mining companies are being given ultra-generous deals. "Mining revenue comes into Mongolia but it is not for us, only the politicians," 52-year-old truck driver Baasandorj, who like many Mongolians uses one name, said after voting in a run-down district of Ulan Bator, the capital.
"Life in Mongolia these days is very difficult. Most of the people are poor. They cannot buy food and clothes. But the rich buy their children very expensive things."
Baasandorj cast his ballot in one of the "ger" districts, named after the type of tent traditionally used by nomads but which now dominate the poor areas of Ulan Bator where more than half of the city's one million residents live.
Before the mining boom most Mongolians lived nomadic lives not far removed from their famous warrior hero, Genghis Khan, who roamed on horseback from the beautiful steppes of his homeland to build an empire into Europe 800 years ago.
Elsewhere in Ulan Bator today, there are dazzling examples of the new riches flowing into the country, such as a high-rise construction frenzy that is rapidly changing the once-dour city's skyline.
Opinion polls gave the Democratic Party a slight lead over the MPP, with Altankhuyag set to become prime minister if the surveys translate into victory. AFP