Elbegdorj, Tsakhiagiin

Born: 1963
Occupation: Mongolian politician

Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj was elected president of Mongolia in May 2009 with 53 percent of the vote. The trilingual, Harvard-educated writer and politician defeated incumbent Nambaryn Enkhbayar by running a campaign in which he promised to eliminate government corruption and to give citizens a greater share in profits from the country’s mineral wealth.

Elbegdorj was born on March 30, 1963, in Zereg, a soum, or district, of the aimag, or province, of Khovd in western Mongolia. He worked for the Erdenet Mining Corporation from 1981 to 1984 before pursuing a university degree abroad. In 1988 he received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from L'viv Military University in the former USSR and a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University in 2002.

After obtaining his bachelor’s degree, Elbegdorj began a successful career as a journalist working for the army newspaper Ulaan-Od. In 1990 he cofounded and became the editor of the Mongolian newspaper Democracy. In 1995 he played a major role in starting a joint Mongolian-U.S. television station, Eagle TV. He is the author of two books, Footstep of the Truth is White and The Years of Bearing Weight, as well as over 100 articles and essays. Elbegdorj served two terms as prime minister between 1992 and 2000, as well as serving on various advisory boards and civil projects.

The success of Elbegdorj’s opposition party ends 87 years of nearly uninterrupted rule by the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP). Having narrowly lost a majority in parliamentary elections in 2008, Elbegdorj and the Democratic Party (DP) launched accusations of election fraud that were closely followed by riots. The violence, which culminated in the burning of MPRP headquarters, triggered an unprecedented four-day state of emergency and left 300 injured and 5 dead. Fearing a similar outbreak, the government banned the sale of alcohol in the capital Ulaanbaatar during elections. Despite the closeness of the race, defeated incumbent Enkhbayar confirmed the results immediately, assuaging any public concerns over fraud and guaranteeing a peaceful election.

Elbegdorj’s main concern as president was the country’s economy, which had been hit hard by the global financial crisis and falling mineral prices, particularly the price of copper, Mongolia’s main export. The government negotiated with foreign companies over access to the country’s rich mineral resources, and a deal with Canada-based company Ivanhoe Mines and Australia’s RioTinto to develop the Oyu Tolgoi mines was repeatedly stalled in parliament. Experts hoped for the negotiations to be smoothed by the change in leadership, but some feared that the new president’s efforts to secure higher payments from foreign investors would further complicate matters. Elbegdorj proposed that companies operating within Mongolia distribute shares to the public in order to localize a larger percentage of the profits. With 2.7 million of Mongolia’s 3 million inhabitants living below the poverty line, the redistribution of mining wealth is a major issue.

The president of Mongolia is elected by popular vote to a four-year term with a two-term limit. Elbegdorj was reelected in 2013. In 2017 he was succeeded by Khaltmaa Battulga. Elbegdorj is married and has four children.

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Facts On File, Inc. "Elbegdorj, Tsakhiagiin." World Geography and Culture Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 24 Apr. 2019. <http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE39&CapitalDisplay.aspx&iPin= atlasb239&SingleRecord=True>.

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