ULAN BATOR (AFP) — Mongolia's former communist party won a landslide victory in national polls, the country's electoral watchdog said Thursday as it dismissed vote-rigging claims that triggered deadly riots.
However, the announcement that the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party won Sunday's election drew renewed charges from the losing Democrats that they had been cheated of victory, heightening concerns of further unrest.
"I am deeply saddened that this vote was stolen. It was stolen and there needs to be a recount. The result is false," Democratic Party leader Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj told AFP from his office.
The MPRP won 47 of the 76 seats in parliament, while its main rival and former coalition partner the Democratic Party gained 26 seats, General Election Committee spokesman Purevdorjiin Naranbat told AFP.
Independents and minor parties won the other three, he said.
If the results hold, it will mean the MPRP could rule outright after four years of a messy coalition with the Democrats that stymied economic progress in the mineral-rich Asian nation sandwiched between Russia and China.
Earlier charges by Elbegdorj that the MPRP had rigged the outcome triggered Tuesday's unrest, which saw five people killed as about 8,000 rioters stormed through the capital Ulan Bator.
Naranbat said Elbegdorj's accusations of vote fraud were without basis.
"The election was organised well and by law. It was really fair," he told AFP.
"Some people did not accept that their candidates lost. We counted again and again but it was still the same result so there is nothing wrong."
The non-profit Sant Maral Foundation that independently monitored the vote also said the elections were basically fair.
"There were some minor irregularities in the vote, but these irregularities were on both sides and not at the level to influence the election result," foundation director Sumati told AFP.
"Our findings are not that different from the final elections outcome... the accusations of the Democrats are absolutely false."
Due to the riots, the government implemented a four-day state of emergency to quell the unrest, which saw the MPRP's headquarters gutted in a fire, a police station mobbed and the Cultural Palace looted.
Police responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the rioters, then sending soldiers and military vehicles onto the streets of Ulan Bator.
Later Thursday Justice Minister Tsend Munkh-Orgil indicated police may have been involved in the fatal shootings of people in the protests.
"It was recommended that the investigation of those homicide crimes be allocated to the Prosecutor's Office's investigative department because of the possibility of the involvement of some police personnel," Munkh-Orgil said.
The violence has quickly become recognised as a particularly dark moment in Mongolia's recent history, as the nation shook off seven decades of communist rule in 1990 without a shot being fired.
The first elections were held in 1992 and, although the nation of about three million people has since struggled with corruption and a growing rich-poor divide, the democratic process had proceeded without violence.
"We had many demonstrations in 1990... but the organisers would maintain peace," Foreign Minister Sanjasurenngiin Oyun, whose late brother was the leader of the democracy movement, told reporters this week.
"No blood was shed in our democracy movement, but the situation has obviously changed."
Nevertheless, although the state of emergency remained in place on Thursday, there were no signs of further violence and soldiers were being taken off the streets.
The MPRP had been the sole party in Mongolia during the Soviet days, and it has remained a dominant power since.
However it failed to win a majority in the 2004 elections by one vote, forcing it into the coalition with the Democrats that caused political and economic gridlock.
Between 2004 and 2008, there were three different prime ministers. Key legislation and contracts in the potentially lucrative mining industry stalled in parliament, shaking investor confidence.
And while the political tensions of Sunday's elections were the trigger for riots, experts also said economic factors such as high unemployment and the growing rich-poor divide were also important.
Many of the 8,000 protesters were young unemployed men, not necessarily people with deep political convictions.
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