Mongolian President Jambyn Batmonh submitted a sweeping program of political reform at a Communist Party meeting in Ulan Bator on Monday, including an offer of his own resignation as party leader.
In a somber speech to the party's Central Committee, broadcast live on state-run television, Batmonh proposed that he and the entire ruling Politburo resign and that the party hold a special congress April 10 to elect new leaders.
"To change the party, we should change the leadership of the party by choosing clever, constructive people committed to (economic and political) restructuring," Batmonh said.
The Central Committee is expected to accept the resignations of Batmonh and others today, according to reports from Ulan Bator.
It is not clear, however, whether Batmonh, 63, or the six other voting and two non-voting Politburo members might keep their party posts on a temporary basis until next month's party congress, or whether they might run for reelection at the April meeting.
Batmonh's resignation from the Politburo would not automatically affect his status as president, which derives from his position as head of the national legislature.
The resignation of top leaders of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, as the Communists are officially known, has been a key demand of Mongolia's fledgling opposition since last month, when the country's first opposition party, the Mongolian Democratic Party, was formed.
At a press conference Saturday, according to a resident of Ulan Bator contacted by telephone from Beijing, the head of the opposition Mongolian Democratic Assn., Sanjaasuren Zorig, said that so long as the ruling party's Politburo goes through the act of resigning, the opposition can accept the reelection of some members.
Batmonh, in an apparent step toward permitting the country's first multi-party elections, proposed Monday that the Mongolian legislature, known as the Great People's Hural, meet March 21 to pass a new election law. Conceding to yet another opposition demand, Batmonh also said that national elections, due in 1991, should be moved forward to this year.
Other steps proposed by Batmonh, according to another Ulan Bator resident reached from Beijing, include:
Eliminating a constitutional provision stipulating that the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party is the leading force in society.
Later revising the entire constitution.
Establishing a commission on rehabilitation of people formerly labeled as anti-party elements.
Ever since Mongolian dissidents began pressuring the government for political change with a series of rallies starting in December, the government has responded with a conciliatory stance.
On Sunday, the ruling party and four opposition groups issued a joint declaration pledging themselves to work for fair elections and democratic socialism, according to a dispatch from Ulan Bator by the Soviet news agency Tass.
Opposition signatories included the Mongolian Democratic Party, the Mongolian Social Democratic Party, the Mongolian Democratic Assn. and the Union of Mongolian Students.
The Communists and the opposition agreed that "their main aim is the well-being of Mongolia, the creation of humane democratic socialism . . . and the preservation of national identity," the Tass report said.
"The declaration states that the ability of Mongolia's political parties and forces to represent public interests should be determined through fair and democratic election to the state bodies," it added.
Batmonh renewed pledges of multi-party cooperation Monday, but he also warned the opposition not to push too hard.
"The party should continue to oppose enemies of the people," he said. "The Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party will fight against those who are enemies of the people and those making extremist organizations."
The mood in the Mongolian capital Monday was calm, with no major rallies, but many citizens appeared to be following political developments with high interest, a resident reported.
Mongolia, with a population of 2 million, has been Communist-ruled since 1921, making it the second-oldest Communist state in the world, next to the Soviet Union.
Mongolia has a rich history. Home to the Huns who ravaged China (1st-5th centuries), it produced its most famous conqueror in Genghis Khan (circa 1162-1227). He forged one of the greatest empires of all time. After the Mongol dynasty faltered in the 1600s, China took control. In 1911, the Chinese governor was ousted by Mongol princes, who declared Mongolia autonomous. Chinese and Russian forces reconquered it but were finally repulsed in 1921, when it became an independent state. The Mongolian People's Republic emerged three years later as a Soviet-allied Communist regime. It occupies more than half the area historically known as Mongolia; the rest is in China.