Blank ballot's different meaning for this year

  • By chagy5
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  • 2024-06-05
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Blank ballot's different meaning for this year

With the parliamentary election approaching, we see increasing promotion of the blank ballot as a form of protest. Unfortunately, under the recently amended election law, a blank ballot does nothing but support those with a strong base of committed supporters.  

Neither candidates in the majoritarian system nor the proportional system require more than 50 percent of the votes to be elected as parliament members. It has almost become a “tradition” in Mongolia to amend or sometimes renew its election laws within the year prior to the election year. Many believe this is how the ruling party tries to ensure victory. 

Widespread disinformation is another “daughter tradition” of this practice. Changing the law alone isn’t enough; they also spread disinformation to manipulate people by misinterpreting the new laws, taking advantage of people’s unfamiliarity with the frequently amended laws. After all, if you are not a lawyer or works in the field, who has time to follow such frequently amended laws in details, right? 

For example, during the 2021 presidential election, political parties heavily defamed what we called “white choice”, simply the blank ballot. If no candidate received more than 50 percent of the votes, a second election with new candidates would be held. This prospect scared the candidates, leading them to unethically campaign against the blank ballot. 

This year, however, it’s the opposite. A blank ballot means nothing more than contributing to the minimum participation percentage. Here is why: 

This year Mongolia shall elect a total of 128 parliament members: 48 by proportional representation and 78 by majority vote. Neither system requires minimum threshold percentage of the vote.  

For the 78 members elected by the majority system, candidates shall be elected according to Articles 4.3.1 and 74.1 of the Law on Parliamentary Election. Candidates shall be listed by the number of the votes they receive, and the highest-ranking candidates within the regional mandates shall be elected. An authentic interpretation of Article 4.3.1 of the Law states “... per the method of representation of the majority ... the parliamentary election candidate who received the highest votes within the regional mandates shall be deemed elected.” Thus, the blank ballots do not matter in this context.  

One of the new practices in this election is that the voter shall cast two different ballots: one for regional candidate (majority system) and one for the parties and coalitions participating in the election (proportional system). 

For the 48 members elected by proportional representation, they shall be elected according to Articles 4.3.2 and 74.2.2 – 74.2.4 of the law. The authentic interpretation of Article 4.3.2 reads “representation by proportion means parties and coalitions registered to participate in the election shall be deemed to be elected by allocation of seats per the percentage of the votes based of the number of votes that the participating parties and coalitions received.” Articles 74.2.2 to 74.2.4 further detail this process: 

Mongolian Law on Parliamentary Election: 

  • 74.2. seats shall be allocated, subject to the terms and conditions of this law, to the parties and coalitions meeting the below requirements: 

  • 74.2.2. For a party, it must have received four or more percentage of the total votes casted for the parties and coalitions; 

  • 74.2.3. For coalitions consisting of two parties, it must have received five or more percentage of the total votes casted for the parties and coalitions; 

  • 74.2.4. For coalitions consisting of three or more parties, it must have received seven or more percentage of the total votes casted for the parties and coalitions. 

This means candidates on the proportional system list shall be elected based on the proportional allocation of the seats, calculated from the total votes received by participating parties and coalitions. In other words, blank ballots, where no party or no coalition is marked, are not considered in this calculation.  

Reading this, you might wonder if it’s inconsequential whether you vote at all. There is only one case where attendance percentage matters: the minimum participation percentage in the electoral regions. If the participation percentage in an electoral region is below 50 percent, those regions shall be required to hold additional voting/election for those on the list of voters who did not vote (Article 4.8.1 and 78 of the law). 

It's reasonable to believe that some politicians have started promoting blank ballots for this reason. Submitting a blank ballot only contributes to the minimum attendance percentage requirement without affecting who shall be elected by either system. In fact, blank ballots might support major parties with their committed supporters’ vote in their “pocket” already. 

It’s safe to say that this promotion for blank ballots does not impact voters who have already decided, mostly party members. However, undecided voters, also called as the “grey group,” have the power to outvote party supporters as they constitute a significant percentage of voters. Thus, these major parties aim to eliminate this risk by “eliminating” you through your blank ballot if you are in the grey group.  

Additionally, another fact is that the ruling party does not want us, especially young voter, to abstain from voting. Since the election day is a public holiday by law, all previous elections were scheduled mid-week (i.e., on Wednesday) to prevent people from deciding to enjoy a long weekend. I personally won’t judge those who decides to do so, but it’s the ruling party’s fault for deliberately scheduling the election on Friday, June 28, seemingly to deter long weekend plans instead of voting.  

All said, for this particular election, the best way to responsibly participate in this election is to research the parties, coalitions, and candidates, study their platforms and past actions, and cast an informed vote with the best option marked.  

By B.Myagmardorj