On September 17, 2021, APARC hosted a delegation from the Mongolian Parliament including speaker Gombojav Zandanshatar, who addressed a joint panel of parliament members and Stanford scholars. Zandanshatar, an alumnus at the Stanford Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, instituted a program of deliberative democracy in Mongolia, and reflected on the outcomes and challenges that still affect the nation.
Zandanshatar’s work with Stanford’s Center for Deliberative Democracy has impacted political reform processes in Mongolia, and he underscored the potential for academic exchange and policy research to improve overall governance and civic participation.
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A partnership years in the making
Following Zandanshatar’s initial time as a visiting scholar at CDDRL in 2015, he returned to Mongolia, where he promoted concepts of deliberative democracy. In 2017, the Mongolian government adopted the deliberative polling method developed by Stanford communications professor James Fishkin.
The deliberative method that analyzes public opinion was put in place to garner public input before the Mongolian constitution could be amended. Fishkin, who devised the deliberative polling process more than 30 years ago, sat on the panel and mentioned that "other places around the world have looked seriously at what you are doing in Mongolia."
Member of Parliament Bulgantuya Khurelbaatar also addressed the panel, discussing the country’s path towards benefiting from democracy and a market economy. Bulgantuya shared statistics of recent economic and industrial outputs, and enumerated the many challenges facing the maturing democracy. Despite Mongolia's improvements in governance, the economy, the health sector, and access to education, the poverty rate in the country remains high (28.4%), there is a serious budget deficit, and the quality of education needs improvement, said Bulgantuya.
While many are optimistic about Mongolia’s ability to remain democratic in its current geostrategic context, Zandanshatar cited professor Larry Diamond's concept of democratic recession. Zandanshatar and Bulgantuya responded to questions from Diamond and CDDRL Director Kathryn Stoner on how Mongolia is dealing with the challenges to its democracy, especially against the rise of Russia and China, two authoritarian competitors on which its economy is heavily dependent. According to the delegatiuon, "Democracy is the only way Mongolia can stay alive as a nation." These results of the panel suggest that autocratic pressure poses an important challenge to democratic integrity.