Asia This Week: January 20, 2023

January 20, 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.

Cable car in Wellington, New Zealand. New Zealand has scheduled general elections for October 14, 2023 and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern plans to resign soon. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Clilly4 (CC0 1.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

India, State Elections in Tripura: February 16, 2023 and in Nagaland and Meghalaya: February 27, 2023 (followed by more state elections later this year and parliamentary elections next year)

India’s states have their own elected governments that have significant devolved power. Roughly one-third of them hold elections in 2023. First up: the northeastern states of Tripura, Nagaland, and Meghalaya, followed by votes in Karnataka, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana (and possibly Jammu & Kashmir) later this year.

These state elections will set the tone for next year’s Lok Sabha (parliamentary) polls, which determine who runs the government. Narendra Modi’s BJP is campaigning for a history-making third term.

Andy Mukherjee, Bloomberg (January 20, 2023): Modi Can Shrug Off Gandhi’s Populist Challenge, For Now

Darn Singh, India Today (January 18, 2023): 400 days for Lok Sabha polls: Why 2024 will be historic in many ways

Nidhi Razdan, Gulf News (January 18, 2023): Narendra Modi’s BJP clicks into gear for the 2024 Indian national elections: India’s ruling party launches campaign to win third consecutive poll and create history

India Today (January 18, 2023): Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura elections: What’s at stake in three northeastern states

Sri Lanka Local Elections: March 9, 2023

Sri Lanka plans to hold local elections on March 9, 2023, its first elections since major protests over inflation, shortages, and a general economic crisis began in March 2022. The protests led to the resignation of then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and members of his family. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the former opposition leader, became president. 

Sri Lanka is a hotspot for geopolitical competition between China and India. The Rajapaksa moved the country closer to China.

The local elections could be delayed to to a lack of funds to administer them.

Voice of America (January 20, 2023): India Facilitates IMF Bailout for Crisis Stricken Sri Lanka

Zulfick Farzan, News1st Sri Lanka (January 18, 2023): Local Government Election will be held on time, Election Comm. gives assurance to Supreme Court

Bharatha Mallawarachi, AP (January 17, 2023): Sri Lanka urged to free student activist held over protests

Thailand General Elections: May 7, 2023

Thailand has been led by Prayuth Chan-ocha since 2014. Prayuth initially came to power in a coup, and then became prime minister following elections in 2019. The May elections are likely to pit Prayuth against the populist faction of exiled former billionaire prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra has announced her intention to run for prime minster this year. 

Prayuth’s coup in 2014 removed the government of Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. As Reuter notes: “Administrations loyal to Shinawatras have each been removed by the military or judicial rulings, adding fuel to a seemingly intractable political crisis that has ebbed and flowed in Thailand for over 17 years.”

Reuters (January 16, 2023): Daughter of Thailand’s exiled former PM Thaksin to seek premiership

Hong Kong District Council Elections: June 2023 (due)

The 2021 elections to the Legislative Council took place in the context of Beijing’s determination to gut Hong Kong’s democracy. A draconian new national security law has led to the imprisonment of pro-democracy candidates, activists, and journalists.

In the 2021 elections, only candidates deemed “patriotic” were permitted, and as a result, the legislature is now overwhelmingly pro-Beijing. Hong Kong has a history of vigorous debate and democratic politics and Beijing’s measures are not popular. In that vein, over 89,000 residents left Hong Kong in the year after the national security law took effect.

Radio Free Asia (January 16, 2023): China appoints hard-line security chief to be its representative in Hong Kong: Move comes amid an ongoing war of words between Beijing and London over the city’s promised freedoms

Cambodia Parliamentary Elections: July 23, 2023

William Echols, Polygraph.INFO (January 20, 2023): Ahead of an Epochal Election, Cambodia Turns Courts Against Opposition

Radio Free Asia (January 20, 2023): Hun Sen threatens opposition, seeking to divide party ahead of July elections

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

Khin Soe Win, Voice of America (January 20, 2023): Q&A: US Sees No Chance of Fair Election Under Myanmar Junta

East Asia Forum (January 20, 2023): The revolutionary whirlwind widens in Myanmar

The Irrawaddy (January 18, 2023): Myanmar Junta Leaked Memo Shows Resistance Growing Beyond Control

The Irrawaddy (January 16, 2023): Over 60 Myanmar Junta Forces Killed in Three Days of Resistance Attacks

Maldives Presidential Election: September 9, 2023

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.

Avas (January 15, 2023): Maldives Presidential Election to be held on Sept 9

New Zealand General Elections: October 14, 2023

Henry Olsen, Washington Post (January 20, 2023): Jacinda Ardern is right to leave office — before voters force her out

Daniel Gilhooly, AFP (January 20, 2023): Chris Hipkins to be New Zealand PM

Jessie Yeung and Hilary Whiteman, CNN, (January 19, 2023): New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern announces shock resignation before upcoming election

AP (January 18, 2023): Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called New Zealand’s next general elections for Oct. 14

Bangladesh Parliamentary Elections: December 2023 (due)

In recent years, Bangladesh has emerged as a bigger player in regional and global politics. Under the government of Sheikh Hasina Wazed and her Awami League (AL) party, the economy has really taken off. But she and the AL have governed in an increasingly authoritarian manner. 

Freedom House notes: “Sheikh Hasina was sworn in for her third term as prime minister in early 2019 following the AL’s overwhelming victory in the 2018 elections, which were marked by violence, intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters, allegations of fraud benefiting the ruling party, and the exclusion of nonpartisan election monitors.”

Hasina’s bitter political rival (and the only other person to serve as prime minister since 1991) is Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Khaleda Zia, who was jailed for a time and is currently effectively barred from participating in politics. Hasina and Zia come from rival families that each played a key role in Bangladesh’s early days as a country. 

The Diplomat (January 21, 2023): As US, China Fight Over Bangladesh, India Is the Real Winner

New Age Bangladesh (January 18, 2023): EU to send election observers for JS polls in Bangladesh

Porimol Palma, The Daily Star (January 17, 2023): Washington wants Dhaka to play key role in Indo-Pacific region

Md. Kamruzzaman, Anadolu Agency (January 17, 2023): Bangladesh’s main opposition party demands formation of caretaker government ahead of polls: Without neutral caretaker government, no fair elections have been held in country’s history, analyst says

Wajahat S. Khan, GZERO (January 16, 2023): In Bangladesh, a powerful premiership is transforming into a brutal dictatorship

Taiwan Presidential Election: Early 2024 (due)

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

The DPP is generally seen as more pro-independence than the opposition Kuomintang (KMT). 

The Diplomat (January 21, 2023): The International Effect of Taiwan’s Local Elections: Taiwan’s local officials can, and often do, set their own course with regards to China and other countries.

Cindy Wang and Samson Ellis, Bloomberg (January 19, 2023): Taiwan Premier Resigns Leaving Tsai With Key Cabinet Decision

Yu Nakamura, Nikkei Asia (January 16, 2023): Taiwan’s ruling party elects VP as new leader to spearhead revival: Lai to take the reins as questions swirl over his pro-independence stance

Reuters (January 15, 2023): Taiwan VP new ruling party boss sets stage for presidential run

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

Fiji General Elections: December 14, 2022

Fiji’s December 2022 elections toppled the government of former coup leader Frank Bainimarama by Sitiveni Rabuka, who himself also previously led a coup (Fiji has had four coups since the 1980s).

On the campaign trail, Rabuka ruled out a security pact with China and advocated for a return to closer relations with Australia.

Radio New Zealand (January 20, 2023): Fiji’s election chief suspended following complaint

Shailendra Bahadur Singh, Lowy Institute (January 17, 2023): Fiji’s new politics: After a first smooth change of power, forging consensus in a nation renowned for ethnic tension poses a continued test.

Lewis Jackson and Kristy Needham, Reuters (January 17, 2023): Fiji military warns govt against ‘sweeping changes’ after tight election

Vietnam Indirect Presidential Election (by parliament): April 5, 2021

AFP notes: “[President Nguyen Xuan Phuc]’s sudden departure is a highly unusual move in communist Vietnam, where political changes are normally carefully orchestrated with an emphasis on cautious stability.”

Bloomberg (January 18, 2023): The Key Contenders to Replace Vietnam’s Ousted President

AFP (January 17, 2023): Vietnam president resigns amid major anti-graft purge

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2023

Nepal Presidential Election (by Parliament): February 11, 2023 (due)

India, State Elections in Tripura: February 16, 2023

India, State Elections in Nagaland and Meghalaya: February 27, 2023

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

Micronesia Parliamentary Elections: March 7, 2023

Sri Lanka Local Elections: March 9, 2023

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

Bhutan National Assembly Elections: March 2023 (due)

Sri Lanka Provincial Elections: 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 9, 2023

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)

21votes does not necessarily agree with all of the opinions expressed in the linked articles; rather, our goal is to curate a wide range of voices. Furthermore, none of the individuals or organizations referenced have reviewed 21votes’ content. That is to say, their inclusion should not be taken to imply that they endorse us in any way. More on our approach here.

Share This