Asia This Week: May 14, 2021

May 14, 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.

Pilgrim boats en route to the Perfume Pagoda near Hanoi, Vietnam. Vietnam heads to the polls this month, although the country is a one-party Communist state and voters lack real choice. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Tango7174 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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

Elizabeth Beattie, Nikkei Asia (May 14, 2021): Samoa’s historic election saga comes down to Supreme Court ruling

Fiona Ey, The Guardian (May 13, 2021): Samoa is experiencing a bloodless coup. The Pacific’s most stable democracy is in trouble

Radio New Zealand (May 13, 2021): Samoan prime minister claims to be ‘appointed by God’

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

Nguyen Khac Giang, East Asia Forum (May 12, 2021): Vietnam’s tug of war with China over Laos

Radio Free Asia (May 10, 2021): Vietnamese Social Media Platform Fined, Suspended Over Vague ‘Violations’

Mongolia Presidential Election: June 9, 2021

Mongolia, a free though imperfect democracy, has scheduled its presidential election for June 9, 2021, following parliamentary elections in June 2020 and local elections in October 2020. However, concerns have recently been raised about freedom and democracy. More

Bat-Orgil Altankhuyag and Fernando Casal Bértoa, The Diplomat (May 12, 2021): Are Presidential Elections Putting Mongolian Democracy in Peril?

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.

Kawashima Shin, The Diplomat (May 13, 2021): Why Is Japan Hesitant to Improve Relations with South Korea?

Eric Johnston, Japan Times (May 9, 2021): Abe rallies conservative base amid speculation over comeback

Sintaro Ikeuchi, Nikkei Asia (May 9, 2021): Biden and Suga bond built on more than just countering China

Leika Kihara, Reuters (May 9, 2021): Japan PM Suga brushes aside calls for extra budget amid pandemic

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

Candice Chau, Hong Kong Free Press (May 13, 2021): Ex-assistant to pro-Beijing party chief and volunteer worker convicted of bid to buy votes

The Mainichi (May 13, 2021): Hong Kong passes law on allegiance pledge for local council members

Natalie Wong, South China Morning Press (May 12, 2021): Bill empowering Hong Kong government to unseat ‘unpatriotic’ district councillors sails through Legislative Council

Radio Free Asia (May 12, 2021): China’s National Security Law Could Spark Expat Exodus From Hong Kong

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.

The Economist (May 15, 2021): South Korea is pushing America for new talks with the North

Kuni Miyaki, Japan Times (May 13, 2021): Will Moon Jae-in’s appeasement policy work this time?

Donald Kirk, Foreign Policy (May 13, 2021): Moon Wants a Legacy on North Korea That Isn’t Coming

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.

Dwight De Leon, Rappler (May 13, 2021): Imagining the 2022 PH elections: Proposals to change the way we vote

Julie M. Aurelio, Inquirer Philippines (May 9, 2021): West Philippine Sea will be key issue in 2022 elections

Australia Parliamentary Elections: May 2022 (due – snap elections possible)

Australia’s federal parliamentary elections are due by 2022, but snap elections could happen. Meanwhile, several states hold elections in 2021.

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

Rob Harris and Anthony Galloway, Sydney Morning Herald (May 11, 2021): Billions of dollars set aside for possible election war chest

Sky News (May 10, 2021): ‘Australians aren’t worried about elections’: McCormack touts pathway to recovery

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.

Phorn Bopha, Al Jazeera (May 13, 2021): Jailed, in hiding, expelled: Cambodia’s Mother Nature crackdown

David Hutt, DW (May 12, 2021): COVID: Cambodia’s harsh lockdown aggravates food insecurity

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

AP (May 14, 2021): Nepal’s ousted prime minister to head minority government

Al Jazeera (May 10, 2021): Nepal PM loses confidence vote amid surging pandemic

Malaysia Possible Snap Parliamentary Elections

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has indicated that he will 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

Amy Chew, South China Morning Post (May 9, 2021): Can Malaysia’s DAP capture the Muslim and non-Chinese vote? Anthony Loke may be about to find out

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

Salil Tripathi, Foreign Policy (May 12, 2021): India’s Pandemic Disaster Has Finally Slowed Modi’s Unstoppable Rise

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

DW (May 13, 2021): Ex-Maldives president flies to Germany after bomb attack

Ajit Kumar Singh, Eurasia Review (May 11, 2021): Maldives: Increasing Vulnerabilities – Analysis

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

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

Committee for the Protection of Journalists (May 13, 2021): Myanmar sentences Democratic Voice of Burma reporter Min Nyo to 3 years in prison for criminal mutiny

Ei Hlaing, The Conversation (May 12, 2021): Myanmar’s anti-coup protesters defy rigid gender roles – and subvert stereotypes about women to their advantage

Voice of America (May 11, 2021): Aung San Suu Kyi to Appear in Court Later This Month, Lawyer Says 

Asia/Pacific Elections in 2021 and 2022

Samoa Parliamentary Elections Take 2: May 21, 2021

Vietnam Parliamentary Elections: May 23, 2021

Mongolia Presidential Election: June 9, 2021

Macau Legislative Elections: September 2021 (ADD EXACT DATE)

Japan Parliamentary Elections: By October 2021 (snap elections possible)

Timor-Leste Municipal Elections: October 2021 (due)

Tonga General Elections: By November 30, 2021

Hong Kong Legislative Council Elections: December 2021 (ADD EXACT DATE)

Sri Lanka Early Provincial Elections: Late 2021 (proposed)

India, State Elections in Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand: February/March 2022 (due)

South Korea Presidential Election: March 9, 2022

TImor-Leste Presidential Election: March 2022 (due)

Philippines Presidential and Legislative Elections: May 9, 2022

Australia Parliamentary Elections: May 2022 (due – snap elections possible)

Papua New Guinea Parliamentary Elections: June 2022 (due)

Cambodia Local Elections: June 5, 2022

Nauru Parliamentary Elections: August 2022 (due)

India, State Elections in Himachal Pradesh: October 2022 (due)

Fiji Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due)

Nepal Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due – snap elections possible)

India, State Elections in Gujarat: December 2022 (due)

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