Mongolia's parliament votes to dismiss premier

AP News
Posted: Nov 05, 2014 8:00 AM
Mongolia's parliament votes to dismiss premier

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia (AP) — Mongolia's parliament voted Wednesday to dismiss the prime minister, who has been under fire for alleged corruption within his administration and who faced criticism for drastically slower economic growth.

The parliament voted 36-to-30 to dismiss Prime Minister Altankhuyag Norov, leaving a deputy prime minister temporarily in charge and handing the fractured ruling party and its allies the task of negotiating a replacement.

The move undermines confidence in the Mongolian economy among international mining companies and other major investors in the landlocked, but resource-rich country wedged between China and Russia.

"The prime minister even has lost confidence of his own party lawmakers," said Amgalanbaatar Dagdandorj, a political analyst and head of a research firm.

"Those close around Prime Minister Altankhuyag have been arrested and investigated by the anti-corruption agency for various shady deals and public confidence in him as an honest prime minister has decreased," he said.

The country's anti-corruption agency is investigating one of Norov's senior aides, former Environment Minister Gansukh Luumed, over alleged embezzlement of coal subsidies earmarked for impoverished residents of the Mongolian capital. Norov's critics also accuse the ex-prime minister of nepotism and allowing relatives to enrich themselves through government contracts.

Norov also drew criticism for the country's slowing economic growth, from 17.5 percent two years ago to the current 6.3 percent.

Foreign investment in Mongolia has fallen sharply as negotiations between the government and mining giant Rio Tinto have dragged on over financing for the development of a major underground copper and gold mine, the Oyu Tolgoi mine.

The ruling Democratic Party of Mongolia must form a new Cabinet within 14 days under Mongolian law.

However, that will be a daunting task because the party has been riven with factional fighting over Norov. Some members of the party broke ranks and joined opposition parties in voting for his dismissal Wednesday.