People in traditional dress arrive to vote in the Mongolian presidential election at the Erdene Sum Ger (Yurt) polling station in Tuul Valley, Mongolia, June 26, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Mongolians cast ballots on Monday to choose between a horse breeder, a judoka, and a feng shui master in a presidential election rife with corruption scandals and nationalist rhetoric.
From its sprawling steppes to its capital and even in yurts serving as polling stations, people began to vote in a landlocked country sandwiched between Russia and China that was once viewed as an oasis of democracy full of economic promise.
Nomadic herders filed into a yurt in the city of Erdene Sum, 100 kilometers east of the capital, Ulan Bator, to cast their ballots, wearing the traditional deel coat, fedoras, and boots.
The resource-rich nation of just three million has struggled in recent years with mounting debt and low voter turnout.
The next president will inherit a $5.5-billion International Monetary Fund-led bailout designed to stabilize its economy and lessen its dependence on China, which purchases 80 percent of Mongolian exports.
But voters have heard little from the three candidates about unemployment and jobs — their top concerns in opinion polls — as campaigns have instead focused on their opponents' allegedly shady pasts.
Mongolia's candidates for the presidential election Ganbaatar Sainkhuu (L), Enkhbold Miyegombo (C), and Battulga Khaltmaa take part in a televised debate in Ulan Bator, June 24, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Among the accusations are a 60-billion tugrik ($25-million) scheme to sell government posts, hefty offshore accounts, and a clandestine donation from a member of a South Korean church — all of which the candidates have denied.
The campaign was also marked by moments of anti-Chinese sentiment, with candidate Mieygombo Enkhbold of the parliament-ruling Mongolian People's Party (MPP) publishing his family tree to rebuff claims that he had Chinese blood.
"(The election) is truly testing the nerves of voters," Gerel Orgil, a Mongolian public opinion analyst, told AFP. "It's been like watching a bullfight."

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