Mongolia's parliament chose the mayor of its capital as the new prime minister yesterday, finding a short-term solution to a crisis likely to prompt further protests in the spring.
The trouble began two weeks ago when more than half of the cabinet, all members of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, quit the coalition government of Prime Minister Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, a Democrat.
Supporters of both sides launched mostly brief protests in the city in sub-zero temperatures, but more are expected when the weather warms up in the spring.
Ulan Bator Mayor Enkhbold, who goes by one name, is the chief of the MPRP, which ran Mongolia as a Soviet satellite for much of the 20th century.
"The issue of forming the cabinet in a very short period of time will be brought to the parliament soon," Enkhbold said in a speech after parliament's morning vote.
"Our government's actions will achieve concrete results that will be felt by the people," he said, repeating MPRP pledges to work to raise salaries and pensions and to include other political parties in the new cabinet.
All parties in parliament, the Great Hural, agreed after the vote that a new cabinet should be established as soon as possible, preferably before the January 30 start of Mongolia's Lunar New Year celebrations.
The Democrats say the MPRP might have toppled Elbegdorj's administration to halt his campaign against corruption, and have vowed to form their own shadow cabinet rather than take part in an MPRP-organized government.
Yet the Great Hural passed Enkhbold's appointment by a margin that showed some Democrats must have voted for him.
The MPRP cited a slowdown in economic growth since 2004 and rising inflation as its reasons for pulling out of Elbegdorj's coalition government.
The Great Hural had been expected to vote on the MPRP chief's nomination last Friday, but political jockeying delayed the process.
Enkhbold told parliament his cabinet would work to fight official corruption and create an environment favorable for investment in the mineral-rich country.
"Both domestic and foreign investors have paused their activities. They are watching and waiting," parliamentarian Batbayar, an MPRP member, said.
But the way is not clear for a new government because the constitutional court might weigh in on the legality of the MPRP's withdrawal and the subsequent dissolution of Elbegdorj's government.