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Mongolian Opposition Takes Over TV Station in Protest - 2004-07-01

Members of Mongolia's leading opposition party have taken over the country's main television station in a dispute over recent parliamentary elections. Members of the opposition Motherland Democratic Coalition stormed the state television facility in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, and appeared on the air demanding that a newly scheduled vote be canceled.

The opposition claims it won a majority of seats in parliamentary elections held last Sunday. However, the ruling Communist Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party alleges widespread fraud, which prompted the election committee to annul part of the balloting and schedule a new vote on Saturday.

The ruling party's international relations chief, Tungalag, says her party is willing to concede, depending on results of the second vote.

Ms. Tungalag says that, once a final decision is made, the ruling party will accept the results, and will respect the voters' decision.

Observers reported widespread irregularities from both parties during the elections.

The ruling party accuses the opposition of bussing large numbers of voters to cast ballots in multiple locations. Election officials blame a loophole in a law that allows voters to change their polling stations just before election day.

The ruling party has for years controlled all but a handful of the 76 seats in the parliament. In this election, initial results showed that both parties won 36 seats, and at least three constituencies remained in dispute.

The opposition questions the objectivity of the election committee's decision to annul some results and call a new vote. Opposition leaders allege the committee is stacked with ruling party supporters.

Television images Thursday showed opposition leaders addressing viewers, saying they decided to take over the television station because they were denied equal access to the state-run media during the campaign.

Analysts said the incident was rare for Mongolia, a landlocked, sparsely populated nation that sits between Russia and China.

Footage Thursday showed a number of demonstrators outside the station, and some broken windows, but residents said the capital remained otherwise calm late Thursday.