Asia This Week: May 21, 2021

May 21, 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.

Kathmandu’s Pashupatinath Temple, a fifth century temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Nepal heads to the polls for snap elections in November, following a protracted political crisis. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Pravash_raj (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

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

AFP (May 21, 2021): Vietnam’s first openly gay candidate seeks change with parliament run

James Pearson, Reuters (May 20, 2021): Fewer independents vie for Vietnam’s Communist Party-dominated assembly

Mu Sochua, The Diplomat (May 19, 2021): Vietnam’s National Assembly Vote: A Futile Gesture

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

Enkhbaigali Byambasuren, The Diplomat (May 18, 2021): Is Mongolia Heading Toward One-Party Rule? A constitutional and legislative crisis resulted in a hunger strike ahead of the June presidential election.

Nepal Snap Parliamentary Elections: November 12 and 19, 2021

Nepal will hold snap elections in November 2021, following a protracted political crisis. For background: in December 2020, 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. The government subsequently lost a confidence vote, sparking snap polls. More

Binaj Gurubacharya, AP (May 21, 2021): Nepal president dissolves Parliament; elections in November

Hong Kong Legislative Elections: December 19, 2021

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

Jeffie Lam, South China Morning Post (May 22, 2021): Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, the last major opposition group standing, faces existential dilemma

The Economist (May 20, 2021): China’s Communist Party chips away at Hong Kong business houses

Shibani Mahtani and Theodora Yu, Washington Post (May 19, 2021): With Netflix, gym sessions and red wine, a Hong Kong activist prepares for prison

Tim Hamlett, Hong Kong Free Press (May 19, 2021): Poll position: the personal reasons why I may hesitate to vote in Hong Kong

Selina Cheng, Hong Kong Free Press (May 18, 2021): New leader of Hong Kong’s 400,000 Catholics says church will ‘passively cooperate’ in city politics

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.

Mong Palatino, The Diplomat (May 17, 2021): Can a United Opposition Defeat Duterte at the 2022 Philippine Elections?

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.

Sebastian Strangio, The Diplomat (May 21, 2021): Key Cambodian Opposition Figure Defects From Banned CNRP: Prime Minister Hun Sen’s strategy for fracturing the opposition is slowly bearing fruit.

Radio Free Asia (May 20, 2021): Deputy Leader of Cambodia’s Banned Opposition Jumps Ship to Join New Party

Nikkei Asia (May 20, 2021): Cambodia’s Hun Sen: ‘If I don’t rely on China, who will I rely on?’

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

Samoa (Election re-run that had been set for May 21 was cancelled)

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, but a court decided to block the new elections, reinstate the results, and overturn the decision to give HRPP an additional MP. As a result, FAST was declared the winner of the elections.

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

Julia Hollingsworth, CNN (May 24, 2021): Pacific island swears in its first female PM in a tent after she is locked out of Parliament

Nick Perry, AP (May 23, 2021): Samoa in crisis as elected leader locked out of Parliament

The Economist (May 20, 2021): Samoa’s long-serving prime minister is struggling to cling to power

Jonathan Barrett, Reuters (May 20, 2021): Samoa to scrap China-backed port project under new leader

Nick Perry, The Diplomat (May 18, 2021): Court Clears Way for Samoa to Get Its First Woman Leader

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

Al Jazeera (May 21, 2021): Myanmar considers dissolving Aung San Suu Kyi’s party

The Irrawaddy (May 20, 2021): Myanmar Junta Scraps Charges Against Pro-Military, Ultranationalist Party Bosses

Kiribati Presidential Election: June 22, 2020

Kiribati held a presidential election on June 22, 2020 in which Taneti Maamau was re-elected. Maamau is pro-China, having switched Kiribati’s diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China during his first term in office.

China has been working to expand its economic and military influence in the Pacific, pumping investment through the Belt and Road Initiative, raising concerns about debt-trap diplomacy. The current economic and diplomatic efforts could be part of a larger plan to establish a military base, challenging the United States and Australia (although Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made some moves in response, such as establishing a $1.5 billion infrastructure fund for the region). While Vanuatu is often cited as the most likely site of a base, Kiribati previously hosted a Chinese satellite tracking facility.

John Power, South China Morning Post (May 21, 2021): Kiribati’s China-backed airstrip upgrade fuels political divisions in Pacific nation

Fumi Matsumoto, Nikkei Asia (May 19, 2021): China extends South Pacific reach by funding runway project: Kiribati, in sea lane between US and Australia, eyes upgrade for planned resort

Asia/Pacific Elections in 2021 and 2022

Samoa Parliamentary Elections Take 2: May 21, 2021 (Cancelled following court decision)

Vietnam Parliamentary Elections: May 23, 2021

Mongolia Presidential Election: June 9, 2021

Macau Legislative Elections: September 12, 2021

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

Timor-Leste Municipal Elections: October 2021 (due)

Nepal Snap Parliamentary Elections: November 12 and 19, 2021

Tonga General Elections: By November 30, 2021

Hong Kong Legislative Council Elections: December 19, 2021

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)

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

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