Mongolia Sheds More Communist Trappings, Guarantees Human Rights
BEIJING (AP) _ Mongolia took another step toward democracy and a free-market economy today by adopting a constitution that sheds the country’s Communist name, includes human rights guarantees and allows ownership of private land.
The official Chinese News Agency reported from Mongolia’s capital, Ulan Bator, that effective Feb. 12, the name will be changed to ″The State of Mongolia″ from ″The Mongolian People’s Republic.″
A new national flag and emblem also were adopted, but Xinhua did not describe them. A report from Ulan Bator by the Japanese news agency Kyodo said a yellow star symbolizing communism will be removed from the upper left corner of the Mongolian flag.
Xinhua said the new constitution was passed today by the Great People’s Hural, or parliament, in a 327-1 vote, with two abstentions.
The Hural had been debating the constitution since Nov. 11. Originally expected to take a few weeks, debate mostly bogged down because the legislature is dominated by the Communist Party that had ruled Stalinist-style for seven decades.
Mass demonstrations in 1990, sparked in part by the reforms in eastern Europe, forced the Hural to call multiparty elections and share power with non-Communist parties in this land of 2 million mostly nomadic residents.
Although the party has said it accepts democracy and the non-Communists’ plans for a market economy, many Communists appear reluctant to let go of power.
They argued at length against a constitutional clause allowing citizens to own land, which is key to the reform plans. They said private ownership went against Mongolia’s nomadic tradition.
In the end, the clause was approved by 74 percent of the delegates in the Hural. Eighty-four percent of the deputies are Communists. Hard-liners succeeded, however, in vetoing land sales to foreigners.
The Small Hural, the lower house where non-Communists have a bigger say, approved the draft constitution in October.
The new constitution also includes broad human rights guarantees.
It will replace one from 1960 that guaranteed power to the Communists. That clause was deleted from the constitution in 1990, and other changes were made allowing opposition parties and free elections.
Following the voting, Xinhua said President Punsalmaagiyn Ochirbat told the Hural that Mongolia will develop full relations with its two neighbors, Russia and China.
Ochirbat said Mongolia would maintain ″a crack army for national defense,″ Xinhua paraphrased him as saying. Previously, it depended heavily on the Soviet Union for military defense, and 60,000 Soviet soldiers were stationed in Mongolia.
For 70 years, the landlocked central Asian republic isolated itself from the non-Soviet world, virtually dependent on Moscow for political and economic support.
Mongolia was a Chinese province from the 1600s until 1911, became an autonomous state under Russian protection for two years and again a Chinese province until 1921.