UPDATE 2-Mongolia opposition demands re-vote in some areas

Fri Jul 4, 2008 5:06pm IST

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(Recasts with call for partial election re-run)

By Irja Halasz

ULAN BATOR, July 4 (Reuters) - Mongolia's opposition has called for a re-run of Sunday's election in some areas, in a challenge to preliminary results that showed the ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) won a majority in parliament.

Allegations of cheating in the poll led stone-throwing mobs to set the MPRP headquarters on fire on Tuesday in a night of violence that killed five and prompted the president to impose a four-day state of emergency.

The Democratic Party said on its website that a meeting of its board agreed that a re-vote was needed in some constituencies, but it did not say how many or if they were the same areas in which party leader Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj had earlier called for a recount.

"We do need a recount of ballot papers in at least 12 disputed constituencies where our candidates may have won," Elbegdorj had earlier told Reuters.

His party's demands could dim hopes for stability in the windswept Central Asian nation after four years of fractious coalition rule that has undermined economic growth and held up mining deals seen as key to lifting the country out of poverty.

The General Election Committee said an official result will not come until Monday at the earliest, but that an initial count showed the MPRP taking 47 seats out of 76 in the Great Hural, with 26 seats for the Democratic Party and the remainder divided between smaller parties.

INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS

International observers say the election, in a country that is seen as a rare example of democracy in Central Asia, was largely free and fair, and analysts said any irregularities would likely not have favoured one major party over the other.

"In my opinion, there could be some election irregularities, but in total it didn't change the outcome," said Luvsandendev Sumati of the Sant Maral Foundation, which conducts polling and surveys.

An election in 2004 resulted in a hung parliament and troubled coalition rule. At that time, parliament convened with two constituencies still in dispute, though it was unclear if the same would happen this time.

Further political uncertainty could hold up the major mining deals that could unlock the massive reserves of copper, coal, uranium and other resources beneath the country's vast steppes and deserts, where nomadic herders lead a subsistence existence.

The first project likely to go ahead is at Oyu Tolgoi, also known as Turquoise Hill, a copper and gold mine backed by Ivanhoe Mines (IVN.TO) of Canada and Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) (RIO.L).

All parties met on Friday to discuss how to move forward.

Before the meeting, they issued a public statement on state television -- the only broadcaster allowed during the period of emergency rule -- offering condolences for the victims of Tuesday's riot and urging an investigation of the deaths.

Three of the deaths and several injuries were determined to have been caused by gunshots, though security forces had only been given permission to fire tear gas and rubber bullets.

Despite animosity between the two main parties, who accuse each other of responsibility for the violence, the joint statement also called on the people to maintain peace and calm and said they were working together to resolve the crisis. (Additional reporting by Royston Chan; Writing by Lindsay Beck)