Thousands of Communist Party supporters staged a pro-government rally in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator on Sunday, while Buddhists held a separate demonstration demanding resumption of religious activity at an old temple.
There were no reports of violence. However, the competing protests marked a new level of tension as opposition forces press demands for rapid political change and the government's response remains uncertain.
In a concession to the opposition, Mongolian President Jambyn Batmonh promised last week that all members of the policy-setting Politburo, which he heads, will submit their resignations at a meeting today of the ruling Communist Party's Central Committee. It was not clear, however, whether the resignations will be accepted or whether many of the same leaders might be immediately reelected.
Sunday's pro-government demonstration, which, according to reports from the Mongolian capital, drew about 5,000 people, appeared aimed at reinforcing the political position of Batmonh and other leaders of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, as the Communists are officially known, before today's meeting.
The opposition-backed pro-Buddhist demonstration, joined by about 2,000 people, reflected a recent upsurge in respect for all aspects of Mongolia's ancient traditions.
The protesters, according to a European diplomat reached by telephone from Beijing, were demanding that a former Buddhist temple in Ulan Bator now used as a museum be restored to its religious function.