April 2, 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.

The gate leading into the Manakula Vinayagar Temple, in Puducherry, India, which holds elections this month. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Jonas Buchholz (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Ongoing Asia/Pacific Elections

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. In addition, a number of local elections are going on. More

Saba Naqvi, Tribune India (April 5, 2021): Why the BJP has grown so fast in West Bengal

SA Aiyar, Times of India (April 3, 2021): Anti-incumbency may spur state election surprises

Suvojit Bagchi, TRT World (April 2, 2021): These two elections might alter how India’s citizenship law is applied

Parth MN, Al Jazeera (March 31, 2021): Why ex-communists are joining Modi’s BJP in India’s West Bengal

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

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. The elections are a key test for the center-left government and conservative opposition ahead of next year’s presidential election.

Steven Borowiec, Nikkei Asia (April 6, 2021): Moon promises the sky in Busan but faces electoral crash landing: Polls tip conservatives to win back mayorships of South Korea’s two biggest cities

Jung Da-min, Korea Times (April 5, 2021): Presidential race expected to heat up after this week’s by-elections

Dongwoo Kim, The Diplomat (April 5, 2021): The politics of South Korea’s “China threat”

Yonhap (April 4, 2021): [Photo News] Early voting turnout for by-elections

Samoa Parliamentary Elections: April 9, 2021

Samoa will hold general elections on April 9, 2021. These elections are happening in the context of controversy over proposed changes to the county’s constitutional framework and judiciary, involving questions of Samoan identity. A new opposition party, Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST, “Faith in the one true God”), is posing a new challenge to the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), which has been in power since 1982. More

RNZ (April 5, 2021): Samoa’s HRPP takes early lead

Maldives Local Elections: April 10, 2021

Maldives has scheduled local elections for April 10, 2021, following a delay due to COVID-19. Voters will elect island, atoll, and city councils to three-year terms. The country was under a brutal dictatorship for decades, but began a remarkable transition to democracy in 2008. The road to democracy has been somewhat rocky, but Maldivian democrats persevere. More

Kyle Rempfer, Army Times (April 2, 2021): Army advisers make first mission to the Maldives, a strategic area of the Indian Ocean

N Sathiya Moorthy, Observer Research Foundation (April 2, 2021): Maldives: Why the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party is still divided ahead of crucial elections

Bhutan, Third Thromde Election: April 28, 2021

Bhutan plans to hold local election sin the capital, Thimphu, as well as the towns of Gelegphu and Phuentsholing, on April 28, 2021.

Chhimi Dema, Kuensel (March 31, 2021): Only 27 percent registered voters for third thromde election

BBS (March 16, 2021): Third Thromde Election to take place next month

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

Hazlin Hassan and Ram Anand, The Straits Times (April 5, 2021): Malaysia’s ruling partners start separate nationwide tour months before expected polls

Reuters (April 4, 2021): Malaysia’s ex-PM Najib starts appeal against 1MDB-linked conviction, jail sentence

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

Tommy Walker, VOA (March 31, 2021): Beijing-led electoral reforms for Hong Kong redefine “democracy,” critics say

Austin Ramzy and Tiffany May, New York Times (March 30, 2021): How China plans to control Hong Kong’s elections

Rebecca Falconer, Axios (March 30, 2021): China’s government passes Hong Kong “patriot” election law

Tom Grundy, Hong Kong Free Press (March 30, 2021): Hong Kong legislative election delayed again to December

Sri Lanka Provincial Elections: 2021

Sri Lanka plans to hold regional elections in 2021. In the 2019 presidential election, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brother of former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, won.  Sri Lanka’s democracy sits on the precipice.

Stratfor (March 30, 2021): Sri Lanka: Cabinet announces plan for provincial elections

PTI (March 30, 2021): Sri Lanka plans to hold provincial elections towards year end

Philippines Presidential Election: May 9, 2022

In 2016, populist firebrand Rodrigo Duterte won the presidency, claiming to be an outsider. He has governed with an iron fist. Although he is banned from seeking a second term, critics fear that he will seek to consolidate illiberalism in the form of a handpicked successor. Meanwhile, a broad coalition of opposition figures have formed 1Sambayan (One Nation) in the hopes of defeating Duterte’s allies with a united front.

Jon Adams, Foreign Brief (April 6, 2021): Philippines court to hear arguments against Anti-Terrorism Act

Neil Jerome Morales, Reuters (April 5, 2021): Philippines turns up heat on China over boats massing in South China Sea

Brent Sadler, Heritage Foundation (April 5, 2021): The Philippines: Economic statecraft and security interests can save a critical alliance

Gabriel Pabico Lalu, Inquirer (March 31, 2021): Raids vs. activists may also be a ploy to ‘cripple’ 2022 opposition bets – Bayan Muna

Mara Cepeda, Rappler (March 30, 2021): No room for elitists and purists in a united opposition in 2022

Indonesia Presidential and Legislative Elections: April 2024 (due)

Indonesia is due to hold presidential and legislative elections in April 2024. 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

A. Muh. Ibnu Aqil, Jakarta Post (April 1, 2021): Green Party seeks authorization for 2024 election run

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

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). Protests against the coup continue. More

Jemilah Mahmoud, Sydney Morning Herald (April 5, 2021): If Myanmar crisis is not resolved, all of Asia will suffer

Alex Morris, Rolling Stone (April 1, 2021): Myanmar’s military is killing people for telling stories like this one

Christian Nunley, CNBC (April 1, 2021): Myanmar has become a global flashpoint as violence escalates. Here’s what to know

Al Jazeera (April 1, 2021): Aung San Suu Kyi faces new charge under Myanmar’s secrets law

Tom Fawthrop, The Diplomat (April 1, 2021): Can Myanmar’s protesters win?

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