Asia This Week: March 5, 2021

March 5, 2021

Your weekly roundup of news and analysis of elections in Asia and the Pacific, usually posted on Fridays and occasionally updated throughout the week. For a full electoral calendar and interactive map, click here.

Western Australia’s Parliament House in Perth, the state capital. Photo credit:
Wikimedia/Nachoman-au (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

Australia, Western Australia State Elections: March 13, 2021 and New South Wales Local Elections: September 2021 (due)

Several Australian states hold elections in 2021. Western Australia holds state elections on March 13, 2021, and New South Wales is due to hold local elections in September 2021. After that, federal parliamentary elections are due by 2022, but snap elections could happen. More

Eliza Laschon, ABC News (March 4, 2021): Lack of federal heavy hitters heading west for WA election, just another point of difference

Thailand Municipal Elections: March 28, 2021

Thailand holds municipal elections on March 28, 2021. These follow the December 20, 2020 provincial elections, the first since the country’s 2014. After that, officials have said they will schedule elections for other types of local elections (such as municipal offices and Bangkok city council).

These elections are taking place in the context of unprecedented protests against the monarchy, and calls for unprecedented types of reforms. These protests have been going on for months. the country remains deeply polarized. More

Marwaan Macan-Markar, Nikkei Asia (March 2, 2021): Thailand’s PM faces bigger threat than protests: coalition rifts

India: Five State Elections: March 27-May 2, 2021

Elections in four Indian states (West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala) and one union territory (Puducherry) begin on March 27 and will conclude on May 2. These elections, involving 180 million voters, will be a key test for the national parties, but regional parties also play a big role. Meanwhile, farmers protests continue in and around New Delhi. More

The Economist (March 6, 2021): India’s government follows Bangladesh’s in policing social media

South Korea By-Elections: April 7, 2021

South Korea’s April 7 by-elections are more important than usual because both Seoul and Busan (South Korea’s second-largest city) both hold special elections for mayor. This is because the former mayor of Seoul died and the former mayor of Busan stepped down in the face of sexual harassment allegations. Several other municipal posts throughout the country are up for election as well.

Jung Da-min, Korea Times (March 4, 2021): Ex-Seoul mayoral candidates return for another bid

Jeong-Ho Lee, Shinhye Kang, and Jihye Lee, Bloomberg (March 4, 2021): South Korea Presidential Hopeful Prods Biden Over North Korea

Bangladesh Municipal Elections Phase 5: April 11, 2021

Bangladesh is holding municipal elections in five stages. The country held general elections to the Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) in December 2018 amid political violence and harassment of the opposition. The Awami League (AL) has been in power since 2009 and is becoming increasingly authoritarian. More

AFP (March 5, 2021): Giant portrait of Bangladesh’s founding leader heightens nationalistic fervour

Zia Hassan, Scroll.In (March 4, 2021): What writer Mushtaq Ahmed’s death in jail shows about growing authoritarianism in Bangladesh

New Age Bangladesh (March 2, 2021): Polls mired in irregularities hurt democracy

New Age Bangladesh (February 28, 2021): Violence, rigging, boycott mark polling

Md. Kamruzzaman, Andalou Agency (February 28, 2021): 1 killed, 50 injured in Bangladesh local polls violence

Mongolia Presidential Election: June 9, 2021

Mongolia has scheduled its presidential election for June 9, 2021, following parliamentary elections in June 2020 and local elections in October 2020. More

Bulgan Batdorj, University of British Columbia’s Mongolia Focus (February 28, 2021): Mongolian Democracy Through the Lens of Animal Farm

Malaysia Sarawak State Elections: By August 7, 2021 and Possible Snap Parliamentary Elections

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has indicated that he will in fact call early general elections once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Meanwhile, several of Malaysia’s states are due to hold elections in the next year. The country’s politics have been turbulent since the historic defeat of UMNO – which had ruled since 1957 – in the 2018 elections. UMNO is back in power but hanging on by a thread. More

Anisah Shukry, Bloomberg, (March 4, 2021): Malaysia’s Emergency Widens Political Rift as Election Looms

Jakarta Post (March 4, 2021): Malaysian PM Muhyiddin faces cracks in ruling coalition as poll nears

Sebastian Strangio, The Diplomat (March 1, 2021): Elections to Follow COVID-19 Emergency, Malaysian PM Promises

Hong Kong Legislative Elections: September 5, 2021 (delay likely)

Hong Kong plans to hold elections to the Legislative Council on September 5, 2021, after a year’s delay. However, further delays are likely. These elections are taking place in the context of Beijing’s determination to gut Hong Kong’s democracy. More

AFP (March 6, 2021): US calls Beijing’s move on Hong Kong a ‘direct attack’ on autonomy

Selina Cheng, Hong Kong Free Press (March 6, 2021): Pro-Beijing politicians back Beijing’s plan for elections ‘with Hong Kong characteristics,’ democrats object

Iain Marlow and Kari Soo Lindberg, Bloomberg (March 5, 2021): China Abandons 24-Year Experiment With Open Hong Kong Elections

The Guardian (March 5, 2021): ‘Hong Kong is crumbling’: seven days that crushed city’s last resistance

Emily Feng, NPR (March 5, 2021): Beijing Prepares Hong Kong Election Laws, Further Erasing Freedoms

Primrose Riordan and Nicolle Liu, Financial Times (March 4, 2021): Hong Kong dropped from economic freedom index after crackdown

Tony Cheung , William Zheng and Lilian Cheng, South China Morning Post (March 4, 2021): Hong Kong polls to be postponed for second year as part of Beijing’s planned overhaul of elections, with expansion in store for legislature, Election Committee

Britt Clennett, ABC News (March 1, 2021): Dozens of Hong Kong activists, politicians charged for state subversion

Cambodia Local Elections: June 5, 2022 and Parliamentary Elections: July 2023 (due)

Cambodia is due to hold local elections in 2022 and general elections in 2023. Although Cambodia has held elections in the past that had some element of competition, the 2018 election – neither free nor fair – signified the closing of Cambodia’s political space. They have been called “the death of democracy.” The main pro-democracy opposition, Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), was dissolved and banned from fielding candidates, and its leader, Sam Rainsy, was sent into exile, so its supporters boycotted the polls, resulting in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) taking 58 out of 62 seats in parliament, and allowing Prime Minister Hun Sen to consolidate even more power while extending his three decades in power.

Aun Chhengpor, VOA (March 5, 2021): In Another Flip, Hun Sen Now Says He Will Rule Indefinitely

Voun Dara, Phnom Penh Post (March 4, 2021): Government schedules June 5 for 2022 commune elections

Nem Sopheakpanha, VOA (March 4, 2021): Four CNRP-linked Parties Will Vie for Votes in 2022, 2023 Elections

Radio Free Asia (March 3, 2021): Conviction of Cambodia’s Opposition Leadership Prompts International Backlash

Nepal Parliamentary Elections: 2023 (due – snap elections possible)

In December, Nepal’s prime minister decided to dissolve parliament and call for new elections. However, on February 23, the Supreme Court overturned the decision. Nepal’s political crisis continues. More

Al Jazeera (March 4, 2021): Nepal gov’t signs peace accord with banned Maoist splinter group

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

China Village Elections

China has been holding village elections in some places since 1978, when Deng Xiaoping began introducing reforms. Even though the authoritarian regime has increased its repression and shrunk the political space, village elections continue.

Radio Free Asia (March 5, 2021): Activist Hounded After Standing For Village Election in China’s Guangdong

Burma General Elections: November 8, 2020

Burma, also called Myanmar, held general elections on November 8, 2020. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide. However, on February 1, the military staged a coup, claiming election fraud (despite a lack of evidence). More

Reuters (March 5, 2021): Diplomatic revolt against Myanmar’s junta deepens amid brutal crackdown

Margaret Besheer, VOA (March 3, 2021): Another Day of Coup Protests in Myanmar Ends in Bloodshed

Indonesia Local and Provincial Elections: December 9, 2020

Indonesia held local and provincial elections on December 9, 2020. More than 100 million eligible voters elected governors in nine of Indonesia’s 34 provinces, plus regents in 224 districts, mayors in 37 cities and 32 provinces across Indonesia.

In Indonesia’s April 2019 elections – the biggest single day of voting in the history of the world – incumbent Joko Widodo (Jokowi), widely seen as a reformer, defeated challenger Prabowo Subianto for the presidency. Prabowo initially refused to accept the results, and rioting subsequently ensued. Prabowo ultimately did accept the results, but tensions remain, particularly regarding the role of religion in politicsMore

Alexander R Arifianto, East Asia Forum (March 3, 2021): Indonesian election law revision a win for the ruling elite

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