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Incumbent Favored Over Wrestler In Mongolia Polls

By GANBAT NAMJILSANGARAV

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia (AP) â¿¿ A popular ex-wrestler and a physician, the first woman to seek Mongolia's top office, are the main rivals to the Harvard-educated incumbent in Wednesday's presidential elections, but neither is likely to wrest the job from him.

The election campaigning in this northern Asian nation has been dominated by debate over corruption, which President Elbegdorj Tsakhia hopes will work in his favor -- throughout his 4-year term, the former journalist has attacked bribery and embezzlement, weeding out graft in the national airline, public welfare funds and among the custodians of Mongolia's vast mineral wealth.

But he has also been accused of shielding his party members from corruption investigations.

"I'm your son. I know your pain and struggles," Elbegdorj, 50, told cheering supporters at a final campaign rally Sunday in the capital, Ulan Bator. "I know exactly what I will do if I'm re-elected. I will continue my fight against corruption and finish what I already started."

This year's election has again raised the question of how best Mongolia, a staunch U.S. ally, should benefit from its boom in the mining of coal, copper, gold, and other minerals. The newfound wealth has propelled the economy to dizzying heights, but also contributed to soaring inflation and further skewed the uneven wealth distribution in the landlocked country, squeezed between China and Russia.

Polls show Elbegdorj, of the ruling Democratic Party, with a strong lead over his rivals.

Elbegdorj, who has a degree from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, has also been highlighting his political origins as a leader of the 1990 protests that ended 70 years of one-party Communist rule and gave birth to a thriving democracy in a region better known for stern dictatorships.

He was elected president in 2009 after serving two terms as prime minister. He lives with his wife, mother and 25 children of whom 20 are adopted.

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