Asia This Week: April 9, 2021

April 9, 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.

A beach on Manono Island, Samoa. Samoa is holding its most competitive election in a long time as voters debate proposed constitutional changes that touch on questions of Samoan identity. Photo credit:
Wikimedia/Sonja Pieper (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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

Sudha Ramachandran, The Diplomat (April 9, 2021): Missing in India’s upcoming state elections: female candidates

Sanjib Baruah, The Indian Express (April 9, 2021): Despite ruling party’s silence, immigration from Bangladesh remains a theme in Assam politics

Mujib Mashal, New York Times (April 7, 2021): A fierce election tests Modi’s campaign to remake India

Somali Verma, Times of India (April 6, 2021): Assembly elections 2021 round-up: States record high turnout; violence in some areas

Devadasan K P, Gulf News (April 6, 2021): In pictures: India Assembly Elections 2021

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

Samoa Parliamentary Elections: April 9, 2021

Samoa will held general elections on April 9, 2021. These elections took place 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

Radio New Zealand (April 10, 2021): Independents ‘hold power’ in forming next Samoa govt

Sam Sachdeva, Newsroom New Zealand (April 9, 2021): Voter threat to Samoa’s long-ruling party

Inga Stünzner, ABC News Australia (April 9, 2021): Samoa set for political showdown as Pacific nation heads to the polls

Catherine Wilson, Al Jazeera (April 8, 2021): Fierce contest for power as Samoa prepares for general election

Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson, The Guardian (April 7, 2021): Samoa’s ruling party faces strongest election challenge in 20 years

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

Aishath Hanaan Hussain Rasheed, Raajje (April 10, 2021): Voting begins in the 2021 Local Council and Women’s Development Committee elections

Avas (April 9, 2021): Campaigns concluded ahead of council election

Tibet Government-in-Exile Runoff: April 11, 2021

Tibetans in exile around the world will cast their ballots for Sikyong, the president of the Central Tibetan Administration (the formal name of the government-in-exile), which is headquartered in Dharamshala, India. The first round, with eight candidates, was in January, alongside legislative elections. In the second round, former speaker of the Tibetan government-in-exile Penpa Tsering will face off against Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang, the Dalai Lama’s representative to North America.

Tibet itself is currently ruled by China and is among the least free countries in the world. However, Tibetans have been developing a democratic system in exile.

Ashwani Sharma, Outlook India (April 10, 2021): Tibetans to vote for new PM of government-in-exile; Penpa Tsering front runner

Kalden Lodoe and Tashi Wangchuk, Radio Free Asia (April 7, 2021): Final vote for Tibetan exile leader set for April 11, with frontrunners pledging greater foreign outreach

Sonam Palmo Brunner, Global Voices (April 7, 2021): For stateless and scattered Tibetans, a new online tool helps voters make an informed choice

Bangladesh Local Elections, Phase 5: April 11, 2021

Bangladesh has been holding municipal elections in phases for the past few months. The fifth and final phase is set for April 11. 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

Salil Tripathi, Foreign Policy (April 10, 2021): Bangladesh’s Long Journey From ‘Basket Case’ to Rising Star. But 50 years after independence, an authoritarian turn casts a shadow over the country’s future.

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, The Straits Times (April 10, 2021): PH names Anwar as PM candidate for next election

Reuters (April 9, 2021): Malaysia’s key opposition bloc nominates Anwar Ibrahim as PM candidate

Zainal Epi, Malay Mail (April 5, 2021): Government may not hold GE immediately after end of Emergency

AFP (April 5, 2021): Malaysian ex-PM Najib starts appeal over conviction in 1MDB scandal

Macau Legislative Elections: September 12, 2021

Macau is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, having reverted from Portuguese control to Chinese control in 1999. The main industry is gaming, with a casino sector seven times the size of that of Las Vegas. The legislature is dominated by pro-Beijing politicians, who hold 29 out of the 33 seats, with pro-democracy politicians holding the remaining four.

Stratfor (April 8, 2021): China, Macau: TDM reportedly informed of new coverage restrictions

Clare Jim and Farah Master, Reuters (April 7, 2021): Press freedom in Macau’s gambling hub under spotlight as China ramps up scrutiny

Japan General Elections: On or Before October 22, 2021

Japan is due to hold general elections by October 22, 2021, but they could happen earlier. In addition, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who replaced Shinzo Abe last year, faces a leadership contest in his conservative Liberal Democratic Party ahead of the general elections.

Stratfor (April 7, 2021): Japan: Prime minister hints at possibility of September snap election

Australia, Tasmania Elections: May 1, 2021 and New South Wales Local Elections: September 2021 (due)

Several Australian states hold elections in 2021. Tasmania holds state elections on May 1, 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. Tasmania’s state government is currently led by the center-right Liberal Party, as is the federal government. More

Adam Morton, The Guardian (April 3, 2021): ‘Smokescreen of Covid’: can Tasmania’s early election obscure the crisis in housing and health?

Paul Osborne, Australian Associated Press (April 2, 2021): Political parties get into election shape

Hong Kong Legislative Elections: December 2021 (planned)

Hong Kong plans to hold elections to the Legislative Council in December 2021, after more than a year’s delay. These elections are taking place in the context of Beijing’s determination to gut Hong Kong’s democracy. More

John Burns, Hong Kong Free Press (April 10, 2021): Hong Kong’s electoral changes: the Communist Party is taking over

Reuters (April 9, 2021): Hong Kong shop founded by pro-democracy activist raided over content labelling

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.

Radio Free Asia (April 8, 2021): Cambodia’s PM Hun Sen congratulates himself for destroying opposition in New Year’s address

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, cancelling the snap elections. Nonetheless, Nepal’s political crisis continues. More

Mukesh Pokhrel and Ramesh Kumar, Nepali Times (April 10, 2021): The politics of Province 2

Apurva Singh, Himalayan Times (April 8, 2021): Election in crisis: Why we need to talk about it

Tika R Pradhan, Kathmandu Post (April 7, 2021): Are Nepal’s parties taking the country towards early polls?

Pia Krishnankutty, The Print (April 7, 2021): Nepal still “topsy-turvy,” its political system prone to not being stable: ex-Indian envoy

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

South Korea Local By-Elections, Including Mayoral Elections in Seoul and Busan

Both Seoul and Busan held special elections for mayor on April 7 because the former mayor of Seoul died and the former mayor of Busan stepped down in the face of sexual harassment allegations. The conservative opposition won the special mayoral elections in Seoul and Busan by a landslide, just a year after President Moon Jae-in’s center-left Democratic Party swept the legislature. The elections are a key test for the center-left government and conservative opposition ahead of next year’s presidential election.

Seoho Lee, The Diplomat (April 9, 2021): Why did young South Koreans ditch the Democratic Party and President Moon?

Edward White and Song Jung-a, Financial Times (April 8, 2021): South Korea by-elections cast doubt on outreach to Pyongyang

Andrew Jeong and Timothy W. Martin, Wall Street Journal (April 7, 2021): South Korea’s ruling party is reeling as conservatives win big in mayoral polls

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

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. The military claims it will hold new elections will take place within two years. More

Reuters (April 9, 2021): Myanmar military sentences 19 to death, says anti-coup protests dwindling

Clarissa Ward, Brent Swails, Scott McWhinnie, Sandi Sidhu, and Salai TZ, CNN (April 9, 2021): Myanmar military denies responsibility for child deaths and says elections could be pushed back

Tal Axelrod, The Hill (April 8, 2021): US slaps additional sanctions on Myanmar over coup

Reuters (April 5, 2021): Myanmar protesters clap to denounce junta as region focuses on crisis

AP (April 4, 2021): Burma death toll rises in protest crackdown

Reuters (April 4, 2021): Easter eggs become symbol of defiance for anti-coup protesters in Myanmar

Milk Tea Alliance

Mashable (April 9, 2021): New #MilkTeaAlliance Twitter emoji shows support for Asian pro-democracy protests

Janis Mackey Frayer and Adela Suliman, CNBC (April 7, 2021): ‘Milk Tea Alliance’ brews democracy online among young activists across Asia

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