MONGOLIA'S parliament dissolved its government after the biggest political party pulled out of the 15-month-old ruling coalition, prompting two days of protests amid complaints about poverty and corruption.
No party immediately announced that it would try to form a new government following the vote late last Friday to dissolve the government of Prime Minister Tsakhilganiin Elbegdorj. Elbegdorj was appointed to lead an interim administration.
But the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP), which announced last Wednesday it was pulling out of the coalition, said earlier it would try to form its own government. The MPRP-led Mongolia under communism until 1990, when it ended one-party rule after street protests.
The party complained that Elbegdorj, a former pro-democracy activist, failed to do enough to fight corruption and worsening poverty in this former Soviet satellite.
This sparsely populated nation of 2.5 million people sandwiched between Russia and China has struggled with a steep economic slide since launching radical free-market reforms in the 1990s.
The MPRP's decision to leave the coalition prompted a protest by its opponents, who temporarily occupied the party headquarters in Ulan Bator last Thursday, accusing its leaders of trying to seize power.
MPRP members staged a counterdemonstration later on Friday in support of the party, demanding that Elbegdorj resign.
Elbegdorj didn't say whether he would try to form a new government.
"I have done my best as prime minister of Mongolia. I trust that the legacy of my government will enrich the heritage of Mongolian governance," he said Friday night in comments broadcast on state television.
MPRP leaders had agreed to reconsider their decision following the protests, but the vote in parliament went ahead despite that.
Parliament voted 39-0 to dissolve the government after 37 members of the 76-seat body left before the vote. Twenty members of Elbegdorj's Democratic Party walked out in protest, but five Democrats remained and voted for the dissolution. The legislature's lone Republican and one of its two independents also voted for the dissolution.
The MPRP has 38 seats in parliament, just one short of the minimum 39 required to form a government.
The uneasy ruling coalition was formed in 2004 following disputed legislative elections in which the MPRP and its rivals accused each other of vote fraud and other abuses.
The capital, Ulan Bator, has been the scene of repeated protests over poverty, corruption and complaints about land reform.
Most Mongolians get by on the equivalent of a few hundred dollars a year. Many are traditional sheep and cattle herders on the vast Mongolian steppe.
The MPRP and its partners have squabbled over government posts and proposed changes to laws on mineral rights in a country where mining for copper and other resources is a major part of the economy.
An earlier report from Ulan Bator said: Mongolia's political crisis entered a crucial stage last Friday as lawmakers prepared to vote on a resolution that would ensure the collapse of the coalition government.
Parliament debated whether to ratify last Wednesday's mass resignation from the cabinet of Prime Minister Tsakhia Elbegdorj, a move that would lead to his ouster after less than two years in power.
The crisis drew hundreds of angry protesters onto the streets of the capital Ulan Bator last Thursday, although the situation had eased later on Friday after the deployment of police and security forces.
All 10 cabinet members belonging to the MPRP, which has dominated politics in Mongolia for most of the nation's 14 years of post-Soviet democracy, announced they were stepping down.
With the party holding exactly half of the 76 seats in parliament, and looking likely to pick up several votes from a minority party, approval of the resignation-and the fall of Elbegdorj's government-appeared imminent.
"It's highly likely the government will be ousted," Sanjaasuren Oyun, the leader of the minority Civil Will Party and a member of parliament, told AFP. "The MPRP has enough votes."
The move by the MPRP is a bid to regain total control of the government, Oyun and political observers said.
Mongolia, most famous for its past under fearless warlord Genghis Khan, has been praised as one of the few Central Asian states to have enjoyed a relatively stable democracy following the fall of the Soviet Union.
It has also been an ally of the United States, and sent a small but symbolically significant military deployment to help the US-led forces in Iraq.