Mongolia in 1989 was a communist state modeled on Soviet political and government institutions. The government was a oneparty system, presided over by the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party. The party exercised political supervision and control over a pyramidal structure of representative governmental bodies known as hurals--assemblies of people's deputies.
The highly centralized governmental structure was divided into three major parts: the executive branch, presided over by the Council of Ministers; the legislative branch, represented at the national level by the unicameral People's Great Hural (the national assembly); and the judicial branch, with a Supreme Court presiding over a system of law administered by courts and by an Office of the Procurator of the Republic. The duties and responsibilities of each of these major bodies were identified in the Constitution promulgated in 1960.
Beneath the national level were key administrative subdivisions consisting of eighteen aymags, or provinces, and of the three autonomous cities (hots) of Ulaanbaatar, Darhan, and Erdenet. On the next lower administrative level were counties, or somons, and town centers. At this basic level, government and economic activity were connected closely, so that the leadership of the somon and those of the livestock and agricultural cooperatives operating within the somon often were identical.
The party related to the apex of the governmental system through its authoritative Political Bureau of the party Central Committee. In 1989 this nine-person body contained the presiding leadership of the country, and it was headed by party general secretary Jambyn Batmonh. Batmonh had dual power status in that he also was head of state as chairman of the Presidium of the People's Great Hural. Batmonh was promoted to these top-level positions in 1984 after his predecessor, Yumjaagiyn Tsedenbal, who had been in power since 1952, was replaced by the Central Committee, reportedly for health reasons.
Below the national level, each aymag and somon had its own party organization that conveyed the policies and programs decided by the Political Bureau and directed the work of its counterpart assembly of people's deputies, its agricultural cooperatives, and the local government executive committee in implementing party programs on its level. The concentration of power at the top of the political system and within party channels had, throughout history, helped to create a complacent party and government bureaucracy, a development that hampered the leadership's plans to modernize the country and to stimulate economic development in the late 1980s.
The Constitution was adopted on July 6, 1960, by the People's Great Hural. It was the third constitution promulgated since the revolution of 1921. The first constitution was passed by the First National Great Hural on November 26, 1924. It abolished the system of monarchial theocracy, described the legislative consolidation of state power, provided a basic statement of socioeconomic and political rights and freedoms for the people, and espoused a national program that would bypass the capitalist stage of development in the course of promoting fundamental social transformations in order to bring about socialism in Mongolia.
The second constitution, adopted on June 30, 1940, took the Soviet constitution of 1936 as the model. As Mongolian premier Horloyn Choybalsan reported to the Eighth National Great Hural in 1940: "We are guided in our activity by the experience of the great country of socialism, the experience of the Soviet Union. Consequently, only the constitution of the Soviet Union may be a model for us in drafting our new constitution." In subsequent revisions to the 1940 Mongolian constitution in 1944, 1949, 1952, and 1959, disparities between the Mongolian and Soviet constitutions were reduced even further.
Under the 1940 constitution, elections were restricted-- "enemies of the regime" could not vote--and indirect; lower bodies elected higher levels. Constitutional amendments introduced after 1944 changed this system, however, by restoring political rights, including the right of suffrage throughout the society; by instituting a unitary hierarchy of directly elected representative bodies; by reorganizing electoral districts; by replacing voting by the show of hands at open meetings with voting by secret ballot; and by abolishing the National Little Hural--the Standing Body of the National Great Hural-- transferring its functions to the National Great Hural, which was renamed People's Great Hural in 1951. The regime's justification for making these changes was that Mongolia had already realized many sociopolitical achievements in its advance toward socialism. Therefore, it became historically correct to introduce reforms that had been adopted in the more advanced society of the Soviet Union.
The Constitution adopted in 1960 includes a lengthy preamble that acclaims the successes of the revolution and notes the importance of the "fraternal socialist assistance of the Soviet Union" to growth and development in Mongolia. The preamble clarifies the dominant role of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party as the "guiding and directing force in society," using as its guide the "all-conquering Marxist-Leninist theory." A renewed commitment is made to completing the construction of a socialist society and culture, and eventually, to building a communist society. Enunciated foreign policy goals describe a diplomacy based on the principles of peaceful coexistence and proletarian internationalism.
The points outlined in the preamble are explained more fully in the main body of the Constitution. Compared with its 1940 predecessor, the 1960 Constitution is more succinct. The 1940 document had been divided into twelve chapters. The 1960 Constitution clusters most of the same content into four general sections: socioeconomic structure, state structure, basic rights and duties of citizens, and miscellaneous provisions. Within these categories, the articles are compressed into ten chapters, compared with twelve chapters in the 1940 constitution.
In the first general section, the socialist system, rooted in the socialist ownership of national wealth and the means of production, is presented as the economic basis of society. Areas protected under law include private ownership of one's income and savings, housing, subsidiary husbandry, personal and household articles, as well as the right to an inheritance. These legal guarantees, however, are subject to the qualification that "it shall be prohibited to use the right of personal ownership to the detriment of state and social interests."
The second and longest general section defines the state structure, following that laid down in the 1940 constitution, as amended in 1959. It details the nature, composition, and duties of all state organs of power, including the executive, the legislative, and the judicial at both the national and local levels.
In the third general section, the fundamental rights and duties of citizens are grouped together, a departure from the previous constitutions. The rights promised in this basic law and the actual experience of Mongolians in daily life, however, are often at variance. Among the basic rights guaranteed are equality irrespective of sex, racial or national affiliations, faith, social origin, and status. These were overlooked in practice, to the extent that male Khalkha Mongols occupied most of the elite government positions, and religious practice has been an impediment to career advancement in an atheistic MarxistLeninist society. In addition, citizens are guaranteed freedom of speech, press, assembly, meeting, demonstration, and processions, but with the restriction that the activities must be practiced "in accordance with the interests of the working people and with a view to developing and strengthening the state system of the Mongolian People's Republic."
A list of duties begins with the exhortation that "every citizen of the Mongolian People's Republic shall be obliged to: show dedication to the cause of building socialism; maintain the priority of the interests of society and the state vis-à-vis private interests; safeguard the concept of communal socialist property; and fulfill all civic duties, and demand the same of other citizens." Other duties involve supporting international friendship and worker solidarity "under the leadership of the Soviet Union," and teaching and practicing good social values.
The Constitution can be amended by the People's Great Hural with a majority of not less than two-thirds of the delegate votes, a system that has produced frequent revision. Perhaps the most novel feature of the Constitution is contained in its concluding article, unique among socialist constitutions. Article 94 allows the gradual repeal of the constitutional provisions: "The Constitution . . . will be repealed when the need for the existence of the state, which is the principal instrument for building socialism and communism, disappears, when it will be replaced by a communist association of working people."
The official seal of Mongolia also has been revised and reflects aspirations of becoming an industrialized society. Furthermore, the Constitution says that the state arms of Mongolia "shall reflect the essence of the state and the idea of friendship of peoples and shall show the national and economic peculiarities of the country." Accordingly, the official seal now consists of a circle framed by sheaves of wheat, fastened together by a machine cog-wheel, replacing animal heads that denoted a pastoral country. In the center is a figure of a "working man on horseback galloping upward toward the sun-- communism," in place of a herdsman holding a lariat and galloping toward the rising sun.
Major State Organizations
As is true of any communist-run state, the party's influence and voice were authoritative and all high government officials belonged to the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party. Nevertheless, in order to establish the mechanisms of government for pursuing the party program, the Constitution provides authority to key state executive, legislative, and judicial bodies, and defines their respective character, composition, and powers.
The unicameral People's Great Hural is described in the Constitution as "the highest agency of state power in the Mongolian People's Republic." It is assigned exclusive legislative power for the country by Article 19. The Eleventh People's Great Hural, elected in July 1986, had 370 deputies as determined by a constitutional amendment in 1981. Of the 370 elected deputies, nearly 89 percent were party members or candidate members; 28 percent, industrial workers; 28 percent, agrarian cooperative members; and 44 percent, intellectuals and bureaucrats. Also, 25 percent of the deputies were women, and 67 percent were elected for the first time. Finally, deputies were afforded special protection in that they may not be arrested or brought to trial without the consent of the Hural or its Presidium.
Deputies served four-year terms, and they were elected from districts divided equally according to population. The slate of candidates presented, however, required party review and approval well in advance of the election. Candidates were proposed by trade unions, farm organizations, youth and party organizations, and other social organizations. Before election day, usually in June, the names of candidates for these constituencies were published in the press. Registered electors could vote for one registered candidate by placing an unmarked ballot bearing the candidate's name in the ballot box. To vote against a candidate, an elector had to strike the candidate's name from the ballot.
It was estimated that 33 percent of the deputies-- representing the party and state leadership--were reelected after each term. Not surprisingly, a high proportion of the elected deputies were party members or candidate members. There also was a noticeable trend reflecting the gradual urbanization of the country, as shown in the 1979 Mongolian census figures. Press coverage of results usually reported 99.98 percent turnout, in favor of the official candidates.
The People's Great Hural, which convenes once a year, elects its officers, including a chairman (speaker) and four deputy chairmen. It selects standing commissions (budget, legislative proposals, nationality affairs, and foreign affairs), and it elects the Presidium. Constitutional powers accorded to the People's Great Hural include amendment of the constitution; adoption of laws; formation of the Council of Ministers; and confirmation of ministers, the national economic plan, and the budget. In 1989 the deputy chairmen were the president of the Presidium, an army officer, a woman, and, to show recognition of minorities, a Kazakh.
Ten permanent committees assisted in specialized areas of government work: industry; environmental protection; construction; youth affairs; budgets and planning; transportation and communications; labor resources; agriculture; trade and services; and health, education, culture and scientific affairs. Also, the People's Great Hural was given powers to establish "the basic principles and measures in the domain of internal and foreign policy" and to decide "questions of peace and defense of the socialist motherland." In practice, however, authority in the fields of foreign and domestic affairs was exercised regularly by the chairman of the Presidium and the minister of foreign affairs. By a constitutional amendment in November 1980, the People's Great Hural is charged with forming the state's People's Control Committee that heads a system of agencies "which shall incorporate state and social control of the working people at enterprises, institutions, organizations, and agricultural associations."
Although legislative power is concentrated in the People's Great Hural, the right of legislative initiative is accorded to several bodies. They include the Presidium, the Council of Ministers, deputies and standing commissions of the People's Great Hural, the Supreme Court, and the Office of the Procurator of the Republic. In addition, legislation can be introduced by youths and workers through the Central Committee of the Mongolian Revolutionary Youth League and the Central Council of Mongolian Trade Unions.
The Presidium of the People's Great Hural was the "highest agency of state power" presiding in the interval between legislative sessions. In 1989 the chairman of the Presidium, Batmonh, was the de facto president of Mongolia. Other Presidium officers included a deputy chairman, a secretary, and five members representing trade unions (two persons for this category), youth, women, and a key party department (either the cadres administration or foreign relations department). The principal powers of the Presidium include formation, abolition, and reorganization of ministries; appointment of ministers and ambassadors; ratification or denunciation of treaties and agreements with other states; and award of military and other titles and ranks. The Presidium also participates in the regular powers accorded to the People's Great Hural.
The Council of Ministers is the "highest executive and administrative agency of state administration." Under Article 42 of the Constitution, this body is composed of a chairman--or premier, a first deputy chairman, five other deputy chairmen, ministers, chairmen of the state committees, the chairman of the State Bank of the Mongolian People's Republic, the president of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, and the head of the Central Statistical Board. In the 1980s, the deputy chairmen regularly included the chairmen of the State Planning Commission; the State Committee for Construction, Architecture, and Technical Control; and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) Affairs. In 1986 the Council of Ministers was composed of thirty-three members.
Members of the Council of Ministers also were party members or candidate members. In 1989 Dumaagiyn Sodnom, a full member of the party Political Bureau, was chairman of the Council of Ministers, making him de facto premier. The principal responsibilities of the Council of Ministers in the late 1980s were to coordinate and to direct the work of the ministries; to supervise national economic planning and to implement the national plan; to exercise general direction over foreign relations and defense matters; to take measures for the defense of state interests and the concept of socialist ownership; to ensure public order; and to direct and to guide the work of aymag and somon executive administrations.
A general ministerial reorganization was carried out in 1987 and 1988 during which 3,000 administrative positions were abolished--reportedly, a significant saving of funds. In December 1987, the Mongolian press announced the dissolution of six ministries and two state committees and the subsequent formation of five new ministries. These efforts to streamline the government structure and to make it more efficient continued into January 1988, when six state committees and special offices were dissolved and two new state committees were formed. In general this reorganization resulted in the performance of certain functions by separate ministries or in the subsuming of several committees under the mission of one. For example, the responsibilities for agriculture and the food industry, previously handled by two separate ministries, were combined in the new Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry. The newly established Ministry of Environmental Protection indicated Mongolia's recent and growing concern over one of its most intractable problems: the protection and renewal of the national environment.
There was no formally constituted permanent civil service to staff government positions. Party organizations were paramount in the selection and assignment of civil servants. The party decided which person was suited to what kind of work on the basis of individual loyalty, honesty, political consciousness, knowledge of relevant tasks, and organizational abilities.
The Supreme Court is described in the Constitution as "the highest judicial authority" that directs "all...judicial agencies and also establishes supervision over their judicial activity." It is elected for a four-year term by the People's Great Hural, and it presides over the lower structure made up of eighteen aymag courts and local somon courts. Members of the local court structure were elected locally, and the judges for these courts served three-year terms. Elected in May 1986, the chairman of the Supreme Court, Lubsandorjiyn Renchin, had a first deputy and two other deputies, including the chairmen of the criminal affairs and the military affairs collegia.
The Procurator of the Republic exercises "supreme supervision over the precise observance of laws by all ministries and other central agencies of administrations, institutions and organizations." The procurator was appointed by the People's Great Hural for a term of four years.
The law and the legal system were described officially as being solidly grounded in the ideology of Marxism-Leninism. The purpose was to ensure that the socioeconomic order produced and shaped a distinctive political, economic, and legal superstructure. Within this context, the principal function of law was to regulate the economy and to contribute to the building of socialism. As of 1989, there still was a limited role for custom in the area of socialist law, but only those considered compatible with prevailing legal norms persisted. There also was a new emphasis on equal rights for women. For the most part, the law functioned as a body of prescriptive regulations that guided social relationships and interpreted the duties of citizens in ways that the party found to be in the best interests of society and development. In general, regulations and codes controlled more areas of life than ever before.
Two separate legal codes form the basis of Mongolian law--the Civil Code and the Criminal Code. The Civil Code, which went into effect in April 1963, was modeled closely on the code adopted by the Soviet Union in 1963. This code regulates personal relations more carefully than had been the case before its enactment. It extends certain rights, including protecting the honor and the dignity of citizens. The code enlarges the discussion of obligations to include contracts of delivery and carriage-- matters essential to efficient business operations. There also are law codes that apply to the family and to the workplace.
Formal training in law was given under the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Mongolian State University. Beginning in 1980, 100 full-time students per year were enrolled at this institution. Although the Constitution contains no channel of appeal, the law does provide for appeals of all verdicts except those of the Supreme Court.
In Mongolia's organizational pyramid, government beneath the national level was carried out by assemblies of people's deputies operating in the eighteen aymags and the three provinciallevel autonomous cities (hots), sometimes called "republic cities." In the late 1980s, each aymag continued to be divided into about thirty somons; towns and population centers within a somon were apportioned into "districts and districts-in-cities." Each of these administrative divisions had its corresponding governing assembly of people's deputies. Some continuity between the Mongolian People's Republic and the traditional Mongolian political culture was provided in preserving the terms aymag, which was a fifteenth-century word for a tribal unit, and somon, which was the traditional basic-level administrative unit. Aymags were established on the basis of geographic boundaries, ethnic groupings, economic conditions, population density, and convenience of administrative control. Somons were the basic units of administration within aymags, and they were where the greatest interaction between government and the people took place.
Deputies to the local assemblies are elected for three-year terms, according to the Constitution. In June 1987, a total of 15,967 deputies were elected to local assemblies, by the usual 99.98 percent of the vote cast. Regular sessions of aymag and autonomous municipal assemblies convened at least twice a year. Sessions of somon and district assemblies were convoked at least three times a year. Each local assembly elected presidiums to administer the government between sessions of the assemblies. Presidiums were composed of a chairman, a deputy chairman, a secretary, and members who included party functionaries and local luminaries residing in the administrative centers.
Within their respective jurisdictions, the assemblies and their presidiums were responsible for directing "economic and cultural-political construction," for supervising the economic and cooperative organizations, for confirming and implementing the economic plan and local budgets, for ensuring the observance of laws, and for making certain that all citizens were fully involved in the work of the state. Superior assemblies of people's deputies were empowered to "change or repeal" decisions of lower assemblies and their presidiums.
Procurators and courts also functioned at the local levels. Local procurators were appointed by the state procurator for three-year terms, and they were subordinate "only to the superior procurator" in the system. Courts were elected by deputies of the corresponding assemblies of people's deputies, also for threeyear terms; precinct-level courts were formed by direct elections and by secret ballot for three-year terms.
|Country Studies main page | Mongolia Country Studies main page|