President of Mongolia
Born June 1, 1958, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; married; children: four. Education: Earned B.S. in language and literature from Literature Institute of Moscow, 1980; studied English at Leeds University, 1985–86.
Addresses: Office —Presidential Office of Mongolia, Government Palace, Ulaanbaatar-12, Mongolia.
Vice president, Mongolian Translators & Interpreter's Union, 1980–90; Association of Mongolian Writers, began as translator, became editor, head of department, executive secretary, 1980–90; first vice chairman, culture & art development committee, government of Mongolia, 1990–92; elected to Mongolian Parliament, 1992; reelected, 1996, 2000, 2004; served as Mongolia's minister for culture, 1992–96; elected chair of Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, 1997; minority leader in Parliament, 1997–2000; prime minister of Mongolia, 2000–2004; chair of Parliament, 2004–05; elected president, 2005.
Nambaryn Enkhbayar was elected president of Mongolia, the last truly nomadic nation in the world, in June of 2005. Formerly he had served as prime minister of this nation of 2.8 million when he headed the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP), the democratic-socialist party that was a holdover from Mongolia's Communist era. Like other left-wing parties of the world, the MPRP had recognized that a more moderate political stance was crucial to its future success. "We have been reformed by international political forces," Enkhbayar told Scotsman writer Damien McElroy when the party returned to power in 2000 elections. "We have taken the path pursued by many parties in the West, including the Labour Party in Great Britain, the Social Democrats in Germany, and the Socialists of France."
Born in 1958, Enkhbayar was raised in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia's capital city. The country, wedged between Russia and China, is a landlocked mass the size of Alaska. It was once the headquarters of the powerful Mongol Empire, which under Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century controlled vast territory that stretched across much of Eurasia. Since its decline, the Mongols had existed as the world's last nomadic people in the world, subsisting on livestock herding in a climate inhospitable to agriculture, and taking their gers , or tents, with them in search of seasonal feeding grounds for the cattle and horses they raised. A history of trouble with its neighbor to the south, China, caused Mongolia to ally with the newly created Soviet Union in the 1920s, and follow its one-party socialist state model for the next 70 years.
Enkhbayar graduated from high school in Ulaanbaatar in 1975, and went on to the Literature Institute in Moscow, the Soviet capital at the time. He earned an undergraduate degree in literature and language in 1980, and spent a year at Leeds University in Britain a few years later. It was there that he encountered uncensored media for the first time in his life, and was particularly stunned by news coming out of the Soviet Union. Back in Ulaanbaatar, he began a career that would eventually bring him to the top post at the Association of Mongolian Writers by 1990, the year that the MPRP relinquished control and multiparty elections were held that July for the first time in Mongolian history.
Enkhbayar, a MPRP member, became part of the new political order almost immediately, serving as a vice chair of a government arts committee for the first two years of democratic rule. In 1992, he was elected to the State Great Hural, or parliament of Mongolia, on the MPRP ticket. Somewhat unusually for a former Soviet satellite state, Mongolia voted to retain the MPRP during its first venture into democratic elections, and Enkhbayar was appointed to serve as the country's minister for culture. He held that post until 1996, when the MPRP was ousted in elections that year, ending its historic record as the longest ruling political party in the world. A group of former dissidents, organized into the Mongolian National Democratic Party, came to power, but the next few years were marked by accusations of high-level corruption and general incompetence.
In 1997, Enkhbayar's MPRP colleagues elected him to lead the party. He held onto his seat in the Mongolian parliament, where he held the title of minority leader, and shepherded the party through a triumphant return to office in 2000. A year earlier, the country had been hit by one of its infamous zud spells, when summer draught and cold-weather blizzards combined to produce severe food shortages and the loss of thousands of cattle and horses. Because a third of the country's population are nomads and thus livestock-dependent, the MPRP received an unexpected boost from the climatological disaster, the worst to hit the country in six decades.
With the MPRP in control of the Great Hural once again, Enkhbayar became the country's prime minister. He embarked on an ambitious plan to improve the infrastructure and encourage foreign investment. These included the new Millennium Road, the first to traverse Mongolia's 600,000 square-mile territory from east to west, and an agreement with a Canadian group to begin gold mining. Four years later, however, the MPRP lost half their seats in parliament to the Motherland Democratic Coalition, a new political entity. Enkhbayar retained his own seat, however, and also served as parliament chair for the next year. He entered the race for president in the spring of 2005, and campaigned by helicopter to cover the sparsely populated country, where even permanent settlements are often spaced miles away from one another. Later that year, he welcomed U.S. President George W. Bush for an official visit, the first one ever of a sitting U.S. president to the country.
Mongolia has won international respect for its peaceful transition to democracy in the post-Cold War era, and the continuance of multiparty elections despite occasional crises. While his presidential powers are limited by the constitution, Enkhbayar hopes to leave a more lasting legacy as a model government for the region. As prime minister and president, he has worked to forge ties with North Korea, the world's most isolated and authoritarian regime. The diplomatic efforts are carried out with the hope of encouraging Kim Jong-il, North Korea's autocratic leader, to enact democratic reforms. "Being democratic makes you more stable and makes you more … protected," Enkhbayar explained to Washington Times writer Bill Gertz. "You feel safer when you are a democracy because you see other countries in the region, North Koreans for example, are not safer, although they are trying to keep their old regime as long as possible. So we think that democracy means a safer security."
Guardian (London, England), November 22, 2005, p. 2.
Newsweek International , August 21, 2000, p. 47.
New York Times , June 21, 2004; July 8, 2004; November 22, 2005.
Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland), July 4, 2000, p. 12.
Times (London, England), June 16, 2004, p. 17.
Washington Times , October 28, 2005, p. A19.
"Biography," President of Mongolia, http://www.president.mn/show_modules.php?index=bio (July 18, 2006).