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PRESIDENT DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY AMID VOTE PROTEST

The president of Mongolia has introduced a four-day state of emergency in the capital Ulan Bator in response to violent protests over Sunday's allegedly "rigged" parliamentary elections that left five people dead, report IFEX member in Mongolia Globe International and news reports. Public gatherings have been banned, and all media except government-run outlets have been closed. There are fears of an online media ban.

The emergency measures were declared after rioting broke out on 1 July. The Democratic Party and other opposition parties, angered at apparently losing an election over the weekend, marched on the headquarters of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP), the country's most powerful political force. Riot police could not prevent the crowds from storming the building and setting it on fire.

The riot - and fire - soon spread to the nearby Cultural Palace, home to a museum, theatre and several media and non-profit organisations, including Globe International.

"A lot of government and non-government organisations are renting offices at the complex and many of them were robbed by the rebels. Fortunately, we have installed an iron door and they could not break (it down)," said Hashhuu Naranjargal, the president of Globe. "But we do not know when we will be able to start work (again)," she added. Globe currently has limited communications ability.

The clashes left five dead, reports the BBC. More than 300 people were injured, a third of them police, and over 700 were arrested.

According to preliminary reports by Globe, "at least five journalists who were reporting the events suffered during the mass disorder" - with two reporters in serious condition. Globe also reports that two FM stations were robbed and left with no equipment, while two weekly tabloids "Humuus" and "Humuusiin Medee" located in the City Cultural Palace were burned down.

While demonstrations are common in Mongolia, the level of violence in the relatively small country - with a population of 2.6 million people - is unknown, says the BBC. But in recent years the gap between rich and poor has grown, as the mineral wealth of the vast Mongolian plateau starts to be exploited by the two main parties, who have worked hard to lure Western mining companies into the country.

As for the accusations of vote rigging, the BBC says such claims are nothing new in Mongolia. Complaints are lodged after every election with both of the main parties. International observers have called last weekend's vote "mostly fair" and it appears that the results will stay. Preliminary results show that the MPRP, a former communist party that ruled Mongolia from 1921 to 1996, has won a majority of seats in the 76-seat Parliament.

Visit these links:
- Globe: http://globeinter.org.mn, email: globe (@) magicnet.mn
- BBC News: http://tinyurl.com/6xenk3
- The Associated Press: http://tinyurl.com/4h85o8
(2 July 2008)

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