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Mongolian PM resigns after protests against COVID-19 measures

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Mongolia’s Prime Minister has resigned, a day after protests against his government’s COVID-19 controls measures held in the capital, Ulaanbaatar.

Prime Minister, Khurelsukh Ukhnaa submitted his resignation and a proposal to dissolve his government on Thursday (Jan 21) after hundreds gathered outside the Parliament building to demonstrate against the policies.

Parliament, which is controlled by Mr Khurelsukh’s Mongolian People’s Party, was still debating the resolutions as at 6pm.

If the government is dissolved, a new prime minister could be chosen on Friday, according to the news website Ikon.mn.

In a speech on Thursday, the premier accused President Battulga Khaltmaa, from the rival Democratic Party, of orchestrating the protests.

Mr Battulga, whose term expires later this year, expressed shock at Mr Khurelsukh’s remarks in a separate speech.

“I wonder and wonder why the Prime Minister of Mongolia did such an act that undermined the trust of the Mongolian people, undermined national unity and openly slandered the President of Mongolia,” Mr Battulga said, according to a transcript on the presidential website.

The protests erupted after a video appearing to show a mother being hastily discharged from a local maternity hospital in a bathrobe because she had tested positive for COVID-19 was widely circulated online.

Demonstrators flocked to Parliament to protest against her treatment on Wednesday, some wearing only bathrobes and slippers to show solidarity with the woman.

While the protests were not unusually large, they lasted well into the winter night, where temperatures can fall as low as minus 40 deg C.

Protesters said they were upset more broadly with extended lockdowns and restrictions on movement, as well as a ban on cross-border travel.

Mongolia has reported fewer than 1,600 infections since March, with 526 active cases as at Thursday.

BLOOMBERG

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