Calm in Mongolia as emergency rule ends
ULAN BATOR |
ULAN BATOR (Reuters) - Troops pulled back from the streets of the Mongolian capital on Saturday and political leaders called for calm as authorities lifted emergency rule declared this week after rioting over alleged election fraud.
There was no sign of the tension that gripped the capital, Ulan Bator, when stone-throwing mobs set the ruling party's headquarters on fire in a night of violence on Tuesday that killed five people and prompted the president to declare emergency rule for the first time in Mongolia's history.
"The political parties do not want renewed violence," said Y. Otgonbayar, chairman of the ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP). "The primary task at this moment is to keep people quiet and bring back normalcy."
Workers were shovelling charcoal debris out of the MPRP's headquarters and authorities had erected a fence around the soot-covered building, but the security presence was light in Ulan Bator.
Of some 700 people detained in Tuesday's riots 400 were released on Saturday ahead of end of emergency rule at 1530 GMT, state television said.
Earlier, all parties held talks to discuss the impasse over last week's election, which has delayed the formation of a new government and dampened hopes for action to tackle double-digit inflation and pass mining agreements.
The opposition Democratic Party alleged fraud and pressed for re-counting and a possible re-vote in some constituencies, after preliminary results showed the MPRP won a clear majority in the 76-seat parliament, or Great Hural.
Democratic Party leader Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj said smaller parties were also challenging the result in at least 19 constituencies. According to Mongolian law, three-quarters of the seats -- 57 -- must be filled for parliament to convene.
The election commission said final results would probably be made public on Monday at the earliest.
International observers say the vote in a country that shook off decades of Soviet influence in 1990 and embraced democratic reform was largely free and fair.
"If irregularities were undertaken or breaches of the law confirmed, there should be recounting first, and then if there is unfairness, a re-vote," said Otgonbayar.
"We were fair in these elections. We are not afraid of re-voting or re-counting whatsoever."
The demand for a re-vote could spell more instability in the Central Asian nation after four years of fractious coalition rule that has undermined economic growth and held up mining deals seen as key to lifting the country out of poverty.
Beneath the country's vast steppes and deserts lie huge reserves of copper, coal, uranium and other resources, but large-scale production has been held up by the lack of an agreement between the government and foreign investors.
One of the biggest projects at stake is Oyu Tolgoi, also known as Turquoise Hill, a copper and gold mine backed by Ivanhoe Mines of Canada and Rio Tinto.
But on Saturday, the key concern was maintaining law and order following lifting of the state of emergency.
"I don't think there will be any more violence," said 40-year-old Bold, a herder from western Mongolia.
But he added: "There's no hope unless the parties really sit down and talk to each other. That's the only way there can be a result that leads to some sort of better future."
(Editing by Sami Aboudi)
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