Mongolia’s 2015 Referendum via Text Messaging: Engaging Rural and Nomadic Citizens in Public Screen Deliberation

Allison Hahn


How can emergent democracies engage rural and mobile citizens in deliberative democracy? This article analyzes the ways that Mongolia’s two national referenda, the 1945 vote for independence and the 2015 referendum on mining contracts, attempted to engage pastoral-nomadic citizens in national deliberations via a public screen. The analysis is prefaced by an examination of public political deliberation and the role of referenda in both settled and emergent democracies. This is followed by an assessment of Mongolia’s ICT development, which enabled the 2015 referendum to be held via short message service text messages and deliberated about over Twitter. I conclude that, although the 2015 referendum did not result in a clear policy mandate, the method of using text messaging to distribute a national referendum shows great promise as a way to reach and engage even the most rural and mobile citizens.


Mongolia, public sphere, public screen, democratization, referendum, pastoral nomads

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