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Mongolia's new chief is a man of paradox

By Associated Press
Published May 26, 2005

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia - Mongolia is a land of jarring contrast, with nomads in tennis shoes and frozen lakes in summer. But few embody as many contradictions as its president-elect, a philosopher in French cuffs who translated Dickens into Mongolian and cites Buddhist scripture when he talks about luring investment to his impoverished nation.

What's more, Nambariin Enkhbayar is an anticommunist who carried Mongolia's former communist ruling party to victory in the election Sunday.

In a nation of miners and herders, Enkhbayar is known for publishing Charles Dickens in Mongolian. He also translated James Joyce, Thomas Hardy, Katherine Mansfield, H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley.

Prime minister from 2000 to 2004 and former Parliament speaker, Enkhbayar, 46, says his journey to the heights of Mongolian politics began reluctantly.

He studied literature in Moscow for five years starting in 1975 and later went to Leeds University in Britain.

He had to join the party he opposed - the then-communist Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party - in 1985 when he was named secretary of the official Mongolian Writer's Association, he said.

When prodemocracy protesters took to the streets in 1990, he decided to stick with the party and change it from within.

"Reform of the party was more important," Enkhbayar said in quiet, Russian-accented English during an interview in his party office. "Dismantling it could have brought chaos in this society."

The Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party allowed multiparty democracy in 1990 after public demonstrations. It has since recast itself as a social-democratic party committed to free elections and capitalism, and remains the dominant force in Mongolian politics.

"Reform has brought democratic institutions and economic changes," Enkhbayar said.

The rival Democratic Party, whose founders defied police to bring down one-party rule, disagree. They complain the Revolutionary Party uses its influence over state radio and television to shape public attitudes toward a party with a brutal past.

[Last modified May 26, 2005, 01:18:13]

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