September 26, 2017 / 5:27 AM / 9 months ago

Mongolia's ruling party agrees nominee for PM with IMF bailout at stake

ULAANBAATAR (Reuters) - The ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) has nominated former vice premier Ukhnaa Khurelsukh as the country’s new prime minister, a party spokesman said Tuesday, as it bids to unlock an IMF bailout package and restore investor confidence.

Members of the ruling party deliberated until the early hours of the morning to decide their nomination to replace prime minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat, who was ousted earlier this month amid accusations of corruption and incompetence in his administration.

The International Monetary Fund said earlier this month that it would wait for a new prime minister to reaffirm Mongolia’s commitments to reform before it would begin disbursing funds from a $5.5 billion economic bailout package.

Khurelsukh’s appointment is expected to be a formality, with the MPP controlling 65 of the total 76 seats.

If his appointment is confirmed, Khurelsukh will become Mongolia’s 30th prime minister since the former Soviet satellite transitioned to parliamentary democracy in 1990.

Government instability has been the norm in Mongolia, with no prime minister able to complete a four-year term since 2004.

Khurelsukh, who is not a member of parliament, was deputy prime minister until his resignation last August to distance himself from allegations of corruption in the party as well as the failed presidential run by parliamentary speaker and MPP candidate Mieygombo Enkhbold.

Enkhbold’s loss in the presidential vote was seen as a rejection of austerity policies drawn up to secure the IMF bailout, which Mongolia needed to cope with mounting debt pressures and a collapse in the tugrik currency last year.

“Khurelsukh represents the beginning of healthy reform, the rebranding of the ruling party, and distancing itself from corruption,” said Dale Choi, analyst and head of the Ulaanbaatar-based Altan Bumba Financial Group.

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

Khurelsukh has spent the majority of his career in politics. He holds the title of colonel, although he served in the Mongolia Armed Forces for only a year from 1989 to 1990.

Reporting by Terrence Edwards; Editing by David Stanway and Simon Cameron-Moore

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