Asia This Week: May 7, 2021

May 7, 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 boat near Samoa’s Apolima Island. Samoa heads back to the polls later this month to re-run parliamentary elections. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Neil (CC BY 2.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

Samoa New Parliamentary Elections: May 21, 2021

Samoa held general elections on April 9, 2021, and the post-election situation has been rather eventful. A new opposition party, Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST, “Faith in the one true God”), posed a new challenge to the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), which has been in power since 1982. Ultimately, both FAST and HRPP got equal numbers of seats, with an independent MP breaking the tie and agreeing to support FAST. However, the plot continues to thicken as HRPP was given an additional female MP since the party did not meet its quota for women.

As a result of the deadlock, the prime minister has called new elections for May 21, although this is being challenged in court as some call the decision unconstitutional.

These elections are taking place in the context of controversy over proposed changes to the county’s constitutional framework and judiciary, involving questions of Samoan identity. More

Radio New Zealand (May 7, 2021): New candidates barred from second Samoan poll

Radio New Zealand (May 5, 2021): More twists in Samoa election saga, with more court action likely

Jordan Fennell, ABC News Australia (May 5, 2021 – audio): Critics call decision to hold second Samoan election ‘unconstitutional’

Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson, The Guardian (May 4, 2021): Second vote called in latest twist in Samoa’s most dramatic election in history

Michael Taylor, Reuters (May 4, 2021): Samoa’s female PM challenger set for rerun after gender quota row

Vietnam Legislative Elections: May 23, 2021

Vietnam, a one-party communist state, is due to hold legislative elections on May 23, 2021. For the most part, only candidates from the Communist Party of Vietnam and those who support it are able to run. In addition, dissidents face arrest and assault. More

VNA (May 7, 2021): Front leaders inspect election preparations in Ninh Binh, Quang Tri

Hong Kong Legislative Elections: December 19, 2021 (planned)

Hong Kong plans to hold elections to the Legislative Council on December 19, 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

AP (May 6, 2021): Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong sentenced to more jail time

Violet Law, Al Jazeera (May 4, 2021): Hong Kong’s China emigres ‘cherish’ fast-disappearing freedoms

Candice Chau, Hong Kong Free Press (May 4, 2021): Two Hong Kong democrats with national security law charges resign from party posts

Jessie Lau, The Diplomat (May 3, 2021): Why Martin Lee’s Arrest Is Such a Worrying Sign

Jeffie Lam, South China Morning Post (May 3, 2021): Electoral overhaul: Hong Kong Legco to have second debate on reform bill on May 26

South Korea Presidential Election: March 9, 2022

South Korea holds its presidential election on March 9, 2021. Recently, the conservative opposition won 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. Moreover, Moon’s approval rating is tanking.

Steven Borowiec, Nikkei Asia (May 7, 2021): Young South Korean men turn against Moon ahead of 2022 election

Youngmi Kim, The Diplomat (May 7, 2021): South Korea’s Political Pendulum Swings Again

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.

David Tristan Yumol, CNN Philippines (May 4, 2021): Duterte: Retaking West Philippine Sea was never a campaign promise

Richard Javad Heydarian, Asia Times (May 4, 2021): Philippines in undiplomatic war of words with China

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 (May 7, 2021): Ally Says Cambodia Opposition Chief is Seeking Political Solution to Standoff

William Echols, (May 6, 2021): After Crushing Free Media, Cambodia’s Hun Sen Claims to ‘Place High Value’ on Journalism

Malaysia Sarawak State Elections: Due by August 7, 2021 (but won’t be held until COVID-19 emergency is over) 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

Channel News Asia (May 5, 2021): Malaysian army veterans form political party to contest in next general election

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

India, Five State Assembly Elections and Various Local Elections: March – May 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, India is experiencing a massive COVID-19 outbreak.

In West Bengal, a former communist stronghold that has been led by Mamata Banerjee from the center-left Trinamool Congress party – currently the only female Indian state leader – for the last 10 years, a massive campaign push from Narendra Modi‘s BJP did not lead to a win. Banerjee will remain chief minister and Trinamool Congress won two-thirds of the seats. However, BJP jumped from three seats to 77 in the 294 seat legislature.

In Tamil Nadu, the leftist regional opposition party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) defeated BJP’s regional allies, the India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). The incoming chief minister is one M.K. Stalin (who was in fact named after Joseph Stalin). Meanwhile, in Puducherry, Congress Party (India’s main national opposition party) suffered its worst defeat in a long time, winning only two seats. BJP’s regional ally AINRC won the most seats and will form the government – the first time BJP allies have led Puducherry.

In the other two states, incumbents remain in power. In Assam, BJP held its majority. In Kerala, the leftist coalition will remain. More

Saba Hussain, Channel News Asia (May 8, 2021): Commentary: Is Modi already being made to pay for India’s COVID-19 crisis?

Nilanjana Bhowmick, Time (May 7, 2021): ‘How Can Modi Be Forgiven?’ India’s COVID-19 Crisis May Be Turning the Middle Class Against the Prime Minister

Reuters (May 5, 2021): Post-election violence kills six in eastern India

Kapil Komireddi, Washington Post (May 4, 2021): Opinion: As India struggles, the opposition Congress Party prioritizes dynasty over democracy

BBC (May 3, 2021): India elections: Modi party defeated in West Bengal battleground

Australia, Tasmania Snap Elections: May 1, 2021

Several Australian states hold elections in 2021, including Tasmania, which is holding its state elections 10 months early. The incumbent center-right Liberals won, their third win in a row in Tasmania. In addition, federal parliamentary elections are due by 2022, but snap elections could happen.

Tensions with China are rising as Australia’s federal government has cancelled several Belt and Road deals. More

Rob Verdonck, Bloomberg (May 2, 2021): Morrison’s Liberals Claim Victory in Australian State Election

Alexandra Humphries, ABC News Australia (May 2, 2021): Tas election 2021: Liberals’ win not what Peter Gutwein was hoping for

Bhutan, Third Thromde Election: April 28, 2021

Bhutan held local elections in the capital, Thimphu, as well as the towns of Gelegphu and Phuentsholing, on April 28, 2021.

Robert Barnett, Foreign Policy (May 7, 2021): China Is Building Entire Villages in Another Country’s Territory

Maldives Local Elections: April 10, 2021

Maldives held 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.

On May 7, a bomb blast hospitalized former president Mohamed Nasheed, one of the main architects of democracy in Maldives. More

Zaheena Rasheed and Ahmed Naish, Al Jazeera (May 8, 2021): Who tried to kill Mohamed Nasheed?

BBC (May 7, 2021): Mohamed Nasheed: Maldives ex-president in critical condition after bomb blast

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

George McLeod, The Diplomat (May 3, 2021): Myanmar’s Generals Aren’t Going Anywhere

AFP (May 2, 2021): Violence erupts in Myanmar as thousands gather to call for ‘spring revolution’ against military junta

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