Mongolia names new PM after ousting previous leader

Ex-premier Jargaltulgiin Erdenebat (standing in the back) was ousted in early September.
Ex-premier Jargaltulgiin Erdenebat (standing in the back) was ousted in early September.PHOTO: AFP

ULAANBAATAR (AFP) - Mongolia named a new prime minister Wednesday (Oct 4), weeks after the previous leader and his cabinet were voted out over corruption allegations.

Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh - a former deputy PM known for his macho image, having posed shirtless Putin-style with a hunting gun - was selected by the ruling Mongolia People's Party (MPP), which took power in a landslide election victory a little over a year ago.

Ex-premier Jargaltulgiin Erdenebat was ousted in early September by legislators who accused him of granting 800 billion tugrik (US$328 million) in concessions to eight companies related to his cabinet ministers.

He was also accused of providing illegal cash allowances to voters and presenting a poor image to the public - all allegations Erdenebat fiercely denies.

Khurelsukh, 49, started his career in the army but joined parliament as a member of the MPP in 2000.

As well as his collection of photos inspired by Russian president Vladimir Putin, last month he earned the nickname "Fist" after a 2012 video of him punching a fellow parliamentarian went viral.

Mongolia's economy had performed well under Erdenebat's government, with a dramatic improvement in the first half of 2017 on the back of growing demand for coal from China.

Political instability, however, has been a constant problem for the young Central Asian democracy, which passed its first constitution in 1992 after decades of Communist rule.

The country has been through 15 different cabinets in the years since, each lasting an average of 1.5 years.

The MPP took 65 out of 76 national parliament seats in the 2016 elections, but lost a closely-contested presidential election in July.

The decision to demand Erdenebat's resignation was made after MPP leadership declined to punish party bigwigs for their alleged role in a US$25 million conspiracy to sell government positions that many believe cost the MPP the presidency.