(Corrects paragraph 9 to show Enkhbayar helped negotiate the
Oyu Tolgoi investment agreement but did not sign it)
ULAANBAATAR May 15 Mongolia's controversial
former president, Nambar Enkhbayar, will not be allowed to stand
in presidential elections next month because of registration
irregularities and his conviction for graft in 2012, the
election commission said.
Enkhbayar, one of the country's most popular politicians,
was picked to contest the June 26 vote by the Mongolian People's
Revolutionary Party (MPRP), but the election panel said on its
official website on Sunday his registration had been refused.
A spokesman for the MPRP could not immediately be reached
Mongolia, a former Soviet satellite sandwiched between China
and Russia, is regarded as an oasis of democracy in the region,
and goes to the polls next month to choose a new head of state
after incumbent Tsakhia Elbegdorj completes his second term.
But voters have grown increasingly frustrated with elected
officials amid growing wealth disparities, a collapse in foreign
investment and an economic crisis that has forced the government
to turn to the International Monetary Fund for assistance.
Enkhbayar's exclusion now leaves the way clear for the
ruling Mongolian People's Party (MPP) candidate, Miyeegombo
Enkhbold, and a martial arts star turned business tycoon,
Khaltmaa Battulga, of the opposition Democratic Party.
Enkhbayar was jailed in 2012 over a conviction for profiting
from illegal privatisations. He and his supporters insist the
conviction was politically motivated and he was pardoned in
2013, weeks after Elbegdorj's second-term election victory.
The terms of the pardon forbade him from holding political
office until the end of his original sentence on October 8 this
Enkhbayar was prime minister from 2000 to 2004 and then
president from 2005 to 2009, when he helped negotiate a landmark
investment pact for the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine with Ivanhoe
Mines, now known as Turquoise Hill Resources and
controlled by Rio Tinto.
He formed the MPRP in 2010 as a break-away movement after
falling out with leaders of the MPP who sought to distance
themselves from the party's socialist roots. The MPRP is the
original name of the party that ruled Mongolia for decades as a
one-party state under Soviet backing.
(Reporting by Terrence Edwards; Editing by David Stanway and