Asia This Week: January 13, 2023

January 13, 2023

A weekly review of key news and analysis of elections in Asia and the Indo-Pacific, usually posted on Fridays and occasionally updated throughout the week.

The Shah Amanat Bridge, opened in 2010 over the Karnaphuli River in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Mohammed Abdullah (CC BY 2.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

India, State Elections in Tripura, Meghalaya, and Nagaland: February 2023 (due), followed by various other state elections in 2023 (next general elections due by May 2024)

Ashish Ranjan, India Today (January 12, 2023): Game of Thrones: Where do BJP and Congress stand in nine assembly polls of 2023

Rupam Jain and Kanupriya Kapoor, Reuters (January 12, 2023): How India’s ruling party is tightening its grip on Kashmir

Reuters (January 9, 2023): Marching across India, Gandhi scion aims to repair Congress party’s image

Neeta Lal, Nikkei Asia (January 8, 2023): India readies remote voting to reach disenfranchised millions: Effort to bring internal migrants into democratic fold raises legal, tech worriesnka

Sri Lanka Local Elections: February 2023

Sri Lanka is holding its first elections since major protests began in March 2022: local elections set for February 2023. 

Meera Srinivasan, The Hindu (January 11, 2023): Sri Lanka’s rival political camps UNP, SLPP announce poll alliance: Move amid uncertainty over the conduct of local government elections, with opinion divided on whether the crisis-hit island can afford them

Miriam Berger and Claire Parker, Washington Post (January 10, 2023): Sri Lanka’s embattled president likens Brazil riot to upheaval at home

Sam Cabral, BBC (January 8, 2023): Sri Lanka’s anti-government protests have gone silent – for now

Dushni Weerakoon, East Asia Forum (January 8, 2023): Sri Lanka’s hard road to recovery from economic and political crisis

Japan Unified Local Elections: April 2023 (next national elections due in 2025)

Aamer Madhani, AP (January 13, 2023): Biden and Kishida discuss Japan ‘stepping up’ security

Sayumi Take and Rurika Imahashi, Nikkei Asia (January 13, 2023): Suspected Abe shooter Yamagami charged with murder

The Economist (January 12, 2023): Abe Shinzo’s assassin achieved his political goals: In Japan, political violence looks worryingly effective

Justin McCurry, The Guardian (January 10, 2023): How Shinzo Abe’s murder and his ties to Moonies blindsided Japanese politics

Catherine Putz and Ankit Panda, The Diplomat (January 6, 2023 – podcast): A New Defense Era: Japan’s 2022 National Security Strategy: Japan has set out on its most ambitious defense build-up program since the end of World War II.

Thailand General Elections: May 7, 2023

Napon Jatusripitak, Fulcrum Singapore (January 13, 2023): Democratic Consolidation or Authoritarian Survival: Thailand’s Next General Election in 2023

Bloomberg (January 9, 2023): Thai Election Jockeying Heats Up as PM Prayuth Joins New Party

Burma Parliamentary Elections: August 2023 (proposed – tentative, post-coup, widely considered likely to be a sham)

The Irrawaddy (January 13, 2023): On Myanmar Junta’s Planned 2023 General Election

Nazarudin Latif, Radio Free Asia (January 12, 2023): Rights watchdog group wants Indonesia, ASEAN to push Myanmar to end violence

Sebastian Strangio, The Diplomat (January 12, 2023): Indonesia to Establish Special Office to Handle Myanmar Crisis: Among the challenges facing Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and her team will be how to respond to the junta’s planned sham elections.

The Economist (January 12, 2023): Myanmar’s generals are deeply superstitious: They hope sunflowers will bring them good fortune

Hein Htoo Zan, The Irrawaddy (January 11, 2023): Myanmar Regime Begins Compiling Voter Lists for Planned Election

Radio Free Asia (January 9, 2023): Myanmar junta meets with ethnic rebels to garner support for 2023 elections

Simon Tisdall, The Guardian (January 8, 2023): Global action is needed to topple Myanmar’s criminal junta boss

Praveen Swami, The Print India (January 8, 2023): Why white elephant democracy will fuel civil war in Myanmar, instability in India’s Northeast: The insurgency in Myanmar could leave the military in no position to keep delivering on its commitments to India. Chinese influence will only make things worse.

Cambodia Parliamentary Elections: July 23, 2023

Sebastian Strangio, The Diplomat (January 11, 2023): Cambodian PM Threatens Opponents With Legal Action, Violence: Despite his party’s nearly unchallenged dominance, Hun Sen is bent on preventing the emergence of a political alternative.

AFP (January 9, 2023): Cambodian Leader Warns Rivals Face ‘Legal Action or Sticks’

Radio Free Asia (January 9, 2023): Hun Sen threatens to seize opposition’s properties: Prime minister renews threat against the Candlelight Party and others questioning Cambodia’s election results.

Malaysia, State Elections in Six States: Due in 2023 (could be held in July)

Six of Malaysia’s 13 states are due to hold elections in 2023. Under Malaysia’s federal system, significant powers are devolved to state governments.

On the national scene, Malaysia held general elections in November 2022 that produced a hung parliament – the first time in the country’s history that no coalition succeeded in securing a majority. The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) won the most seats in a historic result, but two dominant coalitions – the Malay-dominated conservative Barisan Nasional (the country’s dominant party since independence) and Anwar Ibrahaim’s liberal Pakatan Harapan put aside major differences to form a secularist unity government. 

In addition, UMNO – Malaysia’s oldest political party and the dominant member of the Barisan Barisan Nasional coalition – is holding a leadership election this year which could be very vigorously contested.

Malaysia’s location on the Strait of Malacca and straddling the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean makes it crucial to the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific. 

Human Rights Watch (January 12, 2023): Malaysia: Elections Cap Year of Upheaval

Murray Hunter, European Eye on Radicalization (January 12, 2023): The Evolution of the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS): How it Became so Powerful

Kok Leong Chan, Bloomberg (January 10, 2023): Malaysia’s Newfound Stability Tested by Wobbly Coalition Partner

Bernama, New Straits Times (January 10, 2023): Loke: Umno polls, state elections could shape future of government

Free Malaysia Today (January 8, 2023): Bumpy road ahead to next Penang state polls

Maldives Presidential Election: September 2023 (due)

Maldives is due to hold a presidential election in September 2023. The idyllic archipelago was under a brutal dictatorship for decades, but began a remarkable transition to democracy in 2008. The road to democracy has been somewhat rocky and the former dictator and his family remain involved in politics.

On January 28, the pro-democracy, center-right Maldivian Democratic Party (currently in power) will hold a primary to decide its presidential candidate. Incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih faces off against former president Mohamed Nasheed. Meanwhile, another former president, Abdulla Yameen, who is also brother-in-law of the former dictator, will be the candidate for the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). Former defense minister Mohamed Nazim is also running. 

The country, in the strategically-important Indian Ocean, has been part of geopolitical competition between India and the democratic world on the one hand and China on the other hand. MDP is broadly pro-India while PPM is broadly pro-China.

R.K. Radhakrishnan, Frontline India (January 12, 2023): Conviction of Abdulla Yameen means more tension for Maldives

Mimrah Ghafoor, The Diplomat (January 10, 2023): Why Maldives Sided With Mauritius on the Chagos Islands

New Zealand General Elections: October 2023 (expected – due by January 2024)

Toby Manhire, The Spinoff (January 11, 2023): The date of the 2023 NZ general election – an earnest prediction

Thomas Manch, Stuff New Zealand (January 9, 2023): The year ahead: Labour Party to shore up its position for the 2023 election

Bangladesh Parliamentary Elections: December 2023 (due)

In recent years, Bangladesh has emerged as a bigger player in regional and global politics. 

Shaikh Azizur Rahman, Voice of America (January 12, 2023): Human Rights Watch Voices Concerns Over Attacks on Bangladesh Opposition

Human Rights Watch (January 12, 2023): Bangladesh: Violence, Repression Ahead of General Elections

Al Jazeera (January 11, 2023): Bangladesh opposition holds rally seeking PM Hasina’s resignation: The main opposition party wants formation of caretaker government to conducts the next general election due in December.

Mark Leon Goldberg, UN Dispatch (January 9, 2023 – podcast): Bangladesh: Protests, Crackdowns and a Coming Election

Ahammad Foyez, Radio Free Asia (January 10, 2023): FM: Bangladesh wants good ties with US, China but it’s a challenge: China’s new foreign minister stops at Dhaka airport to meet Bangladeshi counterpart.

Jerusalem Post (January 10, 2023): Israeli spyware and surveillance tools sold to Bangladesh – report: Israel and Bangladesh do not have diplomatic relations and Bangladesh bans imports from Israel.

Taiwan Presidential Election: Early 2024 (due)

Taiwan’s presidential election is due next year. The governing Democratic Progressive Party had a poor showing in last year’s local elections, leading to President Tsai Ing-Wen stepping down as party leader.

Chris Horton, Nikkei Asia (January 13, 2023): Taiwan seeks to bolster security in trade talks with U.S.

Huizhong Wu, AP (January 10, 2023): German, Lithuanian lawmakers show support in Taiwan visit

Mercy A. Kuo, The Diplomat (January 10, 2023): Taiwan Politics Outlook: A KMT Resurgence?

Erin Hale, Voice of America (January 10, 2023): Fourth Generation of Chiang Kai-Shek’s Family Takes Office in Taipei

Hilton Yip, Foreign Policy (January 9, 2023): Taiwan’s Government Has a Messaging Crisis on China: Electoral shock showed that voters have other worries than Beijing’s threat.

Al Jazeera (January 9, 2023): China says it carried out more military drills around Taiwan

Min-Hua Chiang, The Daily Signal (January 6, 2023): Why Local Election Results in Taiwan Have Implications for America

Indonesia General Elections: February 14, 2024

Billy Adison Aditijanto, Jakarta Post (January 11, 2023): 2024 electoral tensions risk slowing Indonesia’s reform: Moody’s

Mongolia Parliamentary Elections: June 2024 (due)

Monica Weller, Modern Diplomacy (January 7, 2023): Supporting Mongolia’s Democracy is Key to a Free and Open Asia-Pacific

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

Nepal General Elections: November 20, 2022

Nepal’s strategic location in the Himalayas has made it a site of geopolitical competition between India and China.

Manjeev Singh Puri, Tribune India (January 12, 2023): Stakes rising for the West in Nepal politics

Gopal Sharma, Reuters (January 10, 2023): Nepali former Maoist rebel confirmed as premier for third time

AP (January 10, 2023): Nepal’s new PM secures vote of confidence in parliament: Nepal’s newly appointed prime minister has secured a decisive vote of confidence in parliament with support from both his seven-party coalition and the opposition

Robert Smith and Nucharee Smith, Jurist (January 10, 2023): Explainer: Nepal’s Rocky Road to Federalism

Santosh Ghimire, India Narrative (January 9, 2023): China sends in new ambassador to revive stalled BRI projects in Nepal

Papua New Guinea Parliamentary Elections: July 4-22, 2022

Stephen Dziedzic, ABC News Australia (January 12, 2023): Australia, Papua New Guinea agree to finalise talks on bilateral security treaty 

Terence Wood, U.S. Institute of Peace (January 11, 2023): Why Are Papua New Guinea’s Elections Plagued with Problems?

Philippines Presidential and Legislative Elections: May 9, 2022

Danilo Araña Arao and UP Diliman, East Asia Forum (January 9, 2023): Philippine election year reinvents dynasty cartel

Regional Analysis

Matthew Lee, AP (January 13, 2023): US nears new cooperation deals with Pacific Island nations: The Biden administration is nearing deals with two Pacific Island nations to extend their special ties with the United States, as U.S.-China rivalry for influence in the region heats up

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2023

Bangladesh Indirect Presidential Election (by parliament – largely symbolic role): February 2023 (due)

Micronesia Parliamentary Elections: March 7, 2023

Australia, New South Wales State Elections: March 25, 2023

Bhutan National Assembly Elections: March 2023 (due)

India, State Elections in Tripura, Meghalaya, and Nagaland: March 2023 (due)

Sri Lanka Provincial Elections: March 2023 (due)

Nepal Presidential Election (by Parliament): March 2023 (due)

Japan Unified Local Elections: April 2023 (due)

Thailand General Elections: May 7, 2023

New Zealand, Niue General Elections: May 2023 (due)

India, State Elections in Karnataka: May 2023 (due)

Hong Kong District Council Elections: June 2023 (due)

Tonga Local Elections: June 2023 (due)

Cambodia Parliamentary Elections: July 23, 2023

Burma Parliamentary Elections: August 2023 (proposed – tentative, post-coup, widely considered likely to be a sham)

Maldives Presidential Election: September 2023 (due)

Tuvalu General Elections: September 2023 (due)

Singapore Presidential Election (largely ceremonial role): September 2023 (due)

New Zealand General Elections: October 14, 2023

Philippines Village Elections: October 30, 2023

Bhutan Parliamentary Elections: October 2023 (due)

Marshall Islands Parliamentary Elections: November 2023 (due)

India, State Elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Mizoram: November 2023 (due)

Bangladesh Parliamentary Elections: December 2023 (due)

India, State Elections in Rajasthan and Telangana: December 2023 (due)

Philippines Village Elections: December 2023 (due)

India, Elections in Jammu and Kashmir: Proposed for 2023

Malaysia, State Elections in Six States: Due in 2023 (could be held in July)

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