Mongolia's second-largest party booted from coalition

Mongolia's prime minister ousted a key component of his ruling coalition government on Thursday just eight months after it was formed, amid political manoeuvering ahead of parliamentary elections next year.
Lawmakers approved a motion submitted by Prime Minister Chimediin Saikhanbileg of the Democratic Party (DP) to kick out six cabinet ministers from the Mongolian People's Party (MPP).
Almost all of the 46 members who participated in the vote out of the 76-member Great Hural, or parliament, backed the motion amid a boycott by the MPP.
Parliament speaker Zandaakhuugiin Enkhbold declared the decision immediately valid.
Mongolia, a landlocked country between Russia and China rich in gold, copper, coal and other resources, saw its economic growth soar to a high of a stunning 17.5 percent in 2011.
But that has slowed sharply since, dragged down by political squabbling over the role of foreign investment and a slump in global commodity prices.
Coalition break-ups ahead of elections are common in Mongolia, for decades a tightly controlled satellite of the former Soviet Union which shook off communism a quarter century ago.
From 2008 to 2012 the DP and MPP also formed a coalition government, but the DP puled its ministers five months before the last vote in July 2012. The next elections are expected in the middle of next year.
A "super coalition" of 19 ministers from Mongolia's four main political parties was formed in December in a bid to address the country's faltering economy.
Saikhanbileg's DP, Mongolia's largest party with 35 seats, controls 10 portfolios in the cabinet. Besides the six positions held by the MPP -- the second-biggest member of the legislature with 26 members -- the other three are divided between two smaller parties.
Among those sacked Thursday included Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh, deputy prime minister, and finance minister Jargaltulgiin Erdenebat.
It was not immediately clear who would replace the MPP ministers, though Saikhanbileg -- who has been pushing foreign investment friendly policies since becoming premier last year -- appeared set to continue as prime minister.
The DP last month called on Saikhanbileg to expel the MPP from the coalition, claiming the party was uncooperative and abusing its ministerial powers.
Sandagiin Byambatsogt, the MPP's parliamentary chief, in a statement ahead of Thursday's proceedings blasted the DP for "playing a game" with the country's governance by putting internal party priorities ahead of the country.
Political scientist Erdenebileg Gerelt-Od said that by kicking out the MPP, the DP is gambling that it can reap an electoral bonanza.
"What the DP is trying to do is to make it seem that they are the sole party that brought about positive change if the economy improves," he told AFP.


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