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Page last updated at 21:23 GMT, Tuesday, 1 July 2008 22:23 UK

Mongolia calls state of emergency

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Protesters set fire to the headquarters of the ruling party

The president of Mongolia has declared a four-day state of emergency in the capital amid violent protests over claims the general election was rigged.

Crowds torched the HQ of Mongolia's governing party - the former Communists - and attacked a police station.

Over 60 people were hurt - around half of them police - as officers used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon against stone-throwing protestors.

The unrest went on into the night, with reports of bank robberies and looting.

Rioters set fire to the Cultural Palace, home to a theatre, museum and national art gallery in the capital, Ulan Bator.

'Robbed of victory'

Thousand of protesters defied a 2200 curfew by refusing to disperse.

Police shield themselves from protesters in Ulan Bator on 1 July 2008
The unrest far surpasses previous poll disorder in Mongolia

Violence erupted as preliminary results from Sunday's poll give the governing Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) a clear victory.

Returns suggested the ruling MPRP had taken at least 43 seats in the 76-seat parliament, or Great Hural.

But the opposition Democrats allege fraud.

The state of emergency, which was announced in a decree from President Nambaryn Enkhbayar on state TV, came into effect late on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Sanjagiin Bayar made a TV address during which he insisted the election had been both free and fair.

He claimed Democratic Party leader Tsakhia Elbegdorj was "misleading people and inciting violence".

Mr Elbegdorj earlier said the Democrats had been robbed of victory and claimed most voters had chosen his party.

"If most people voted for us why did we lose? We lost because... corrupt people changed the results," Mr Elbegdorj said.

Competing for resources

Mongolia's government used to be modelled on the Communist system of the neighbouring Soviet Union, until 1990 when multi-party politics were introduced.

Map

With an economy based on nomadic herding, Mongolia was heavily reliant on support from Moscow, but when this was withdrawn its financial systems quickly collapsed.

During the difficult intervening period, the former Communists, the MPRP, and the emergent Democratic Party have competed for power.

Four years ago, they were obliged to form a coalition, but in 2006 they broke apart again acrimoniously.

Since then the MPRP has hung on to power through alliances with splinter parties.

Despite years of political unease, politics in Mongolia was relatively calm as long as the country was poor, the BBC's David Bamford says.

But that has changed, as recently unearthed deposits of copper, gold and coal in the vast Mongolian plateau start to be exploited, our correspondent says.


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SEE ALSO
Mongolia votes in key elections
29 Jun 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Pollution chokes Ulan Bator skies
19 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Mongolia's prime minister quits
08 Nov 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Post-communist Mongolia's struggle
11 Jan 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Mongolia
23 Jun 08 |  Country profiles

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Washington Post Five Dead in Mongolia Post-Election Violence - 2 hrs ago
Irish News Five killed in Mongolia election riots - 2 hrs ago
Miami HeraldHeavy security in Mongolia after riots - 3 hrs ago
ABC Online Mongolia clamps down after 5 killed in unrest - 4 hrs ago
SignOn San Diego Mongolian police cordon off capital downtown in emergency after post-vote violence - 5 hrs ago
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