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Monday, 21 May, 2001, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Mongolia's ex-communists re-elected
Bagabandi casts his vote
Bagabandi has been praised for his 'professional approach'
Mongolia's incumbent president has been re-elected, giving his former Communist party almost total control of the government, according to early election results on Monday.

In a clear endorsement of the former Communist rulers, President Natsagiin Bagabandi received 57.95% of the vote in Sunday's polls, easily defeating his nearest rivals.

His main challenger, Radnaasumbereliin Gonchigdorj, won a provisional 36.58%.

Mr Bagabandi ran under the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP), which was the country's sole ruling party during the Soviet era, between 1924 and 1990.

Dead cattle
Herders have suffered cattle disease and devastating winters in recent years
The re-modelled party, which now supports radical economic reform and privatisation, had already won a landslide victory in last year's parliamentary elections, when it secured 72 out of 76 seats.

Mr Bagabandi's campaign had appealed to voters to unite control of the presidency and parliament under the MPRP, to give it more power to revive the country's ailing economy.

"The support given by the people is a manifestation of the belief and trust felt by the people," he said.

"The MPRP is not the party of a particular social group. This is a nationwide party."

Professional approach

Mr Bagabandi, 51, has won praise for his professional approach, and analysts have seen his victory as guaranteeing the political stability needed for economic growth.

However, there is concern that hardliners within his MPRP could still block crucial structural reform.

President Bagabandi
Bagabandi was trained in the former Soviet Union
A decade of capitalist-style reforms - which has also seen unemployment, corruption and crime soar alongside - has left many of the 2.4 million Mongolians disillusioned.

The MPRP has promised to raise pensions and wages, and to re-organise the rural economy to boost incomes for nomads, who have been hard-hit in recent years with two winter disasters and a foot-and-mouth outbreak.

The party has also just approved the privatisation of almost all key state enterprises in a bid to kickstart the economy.

Soviet-trained

Born to a herder's family in the western province of Zavhan, Mr Bagabandi is a fervent Buddhist and a skilled orator.

He was educated in the former Soviet Union, following an educational route similar to that taken by many former heads of Soviet satellite states.

In the last four years, he has sought to strengthen links with Moscow, but at the same time has wooed the West, especially the United States, as well as China.

During the election campaign, Mr Bagabandi promised to target the rampant corruption which has accompanied Mongolia's transition in recent years from a communist state to a market economy.

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See also:

19 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
UN warns of Mongolian 'catastrophe'
03 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Mongolia
03 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Mongolia
28 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Alarm over Mongolia food crisis
14 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Mongolian herdsmen face starvation
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