Asia This Week: June 11, 2021

June 11, 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.

Namdaemun, one of the eight gates in the 14th century Fortress Wall of Seoul. South Korea holds a presidential election next year. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Kaniwari (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

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.

Kyodo/Japan Today (June 11, 2021): Japanese parties vie to boost number of female lawmakers ahead of election

Siladitya Ray, Forbes (June 11, 2021): Japan’s Opposition Leader Calls For Tokyo Olympics Cancelation, Warns Of ‘Explosive’ Covid Surge

Michael Penn, Al Jazeera (June 10, 2021): Why is populism so unpopular in Japan?

Gabrielle Debinski, GZERO (June 9, 2021): Has this man lost Japan?

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

Raymond Zhong, New York Times (June 11, 2021): China’s Censorship Widens to Hong Kong’s Vaunted Film Industry, With Global Implications

Reuters (June 9, 2021): EU considers sending delegation to Hong Kong after electoral law reform

Simon Shen, The Diplomat (June 9, 2021): Beijing’s Tried-and-Tested Plan to Hollow out Hong Kong’s Legislature: The PRC has a long history of remaking institutions, but keeping up the language and appearance of the past.

Malaysia Possible Snap Parliamentary Elections and Sarawak State Elections: To be called shortly after the COVID-19 state of emergency ends

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. Specifically, Sarawak is due to hold state elections this summer, or very shortly after the federal government lifts the COVID-19 state of emergency.

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.

Moez Hayat and Ryan Ashley, The Diplomat (June 12, 2021): Konfrontasi in the Skies: China’s recent overflight has raised dormant Malaysian fears about the nation’s sovereignty over its Bornean territories.

Chris Barrett, Sydney Morning Herald (June 11, 2021): Malaysian king steps up to tackle COVID crisis as political unrest mounts

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin, Malay Mail (June 10, 2021): Too dangerous to hold elections with Covid-19 still raging in Malaysia, says Dr Mahathir

Stratfor (June 10, 2021): Malaysia: Coalition Ally Calls for COVID-19 Emergency End, Parliamentary Resumption

Chin Huat Wong, Channel News Asia (June 9, 2021): Commentary: Malaysia’s government rests on an uneasy pact

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

Five Indian states are due to hold elections in early 2022. These elections will be a key test for the national parties – and PM Narendra Modi.

Jonah Blank, The Atlantic (June 10, 2021): India’s Democracy Is the World’s Problem

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.

Chang May Choon, Straits Times (June 12, 2021): 36-year-old elected youngest leader of South Korea’s main opposition party in sign of generational shift

Cynthia Kim, Reuters (June 9, 2021): Young voter anger over housing, jobs threatens Moon’s legacy in South Korea

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 (as Philippines presidents are not able to seek re-election), 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.

Mara Cepeda, Rappler (June 12, 2021): 1Sambayan names 6 nominees for president, VP in 2022

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network (June 9, 2021): Duterte ‘sees nobody deserving’ as next Philippine President, says he is ready to retire

Lucio Blanco Pitlo III, South China Morning Post (June 8, 2021): Can Philippine political coalition 1Sambayan best Duterte’s allies at next year’s presidential election?

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.

Luke Hunt, Voice of America (June 10, 2021): Cambodia Political Parties Regroup Ahead of Elections

David Hutt, Asia Times (June 7, 2021): China’s hold on Cambodia hard for Biden to break

Papua New Guinea General Elections: June/July 2022 (due)

Papua New Guinea is due to hold general elections in June or July 2022.

Maholopa Laveil, Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter (June 11, 2021): in the 2022 elections?

Solomon Islands General Elections: April 3, 2019

The Solomon Islands held elections on April 3, 2019. Manasseh Sogavare, who had previously served several tumultuous terms at different points, was elected prime minister again, ousting Rick Houenipwela, who himself had become prime minister when Sogavare was ousted in a no-confidence motion in 2017. Riots broke out after the elections. Subsequently, the Solomon Islands switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, a very controversial decision.

Edward Cavanough, Al Jazeera (June 8, 2021): How a medical evacuation exposed Solomon Islands’ China challenge

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

Mongolia Presidential Election: June 9, 2021

Mongolia, a free though imperfect democracy, held its presidential election on June 9, 2021, following parliamentary elections in June 2020 and local elections in October 2020. Former PM Ukhnaa Khurelsukh won in a landslide, further consolidating the power of the Mongolian People’s Party (which was the ruling party during the communist era). MPP also has a majority in the legislature.

It was a nasty campaign in a polarized environment. Incumbent Khaltmaagiin Battulga from the center-right Democratic Party was not able to seek another term following a controversial rule change pushed by MPP. Now that MPP has both the presidency and the legislature, there are concerns about democratic backsliding. More

Julian Dierkes, Marissa Smith, and Shannon Tiezzi, The Diplomat (June 10, 2021): Khurelsukh Cruises to Victory in Mongolian Presidential Race: It was the biggest victory ever in Mongolia’s democratic history.

Reuters (June 9, 2021): Ex-Mongolian prime minister Khurelsukh wins presidential election in landslide

Al Jazeera (June 9, 2021): Mongolia ruling party expected to consolidate power in elections

Vietnam Legislative Elections: May 23, 2021

Vietnam, a one-party communist state, held 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

NHK (June 10, 2021): Vietnam Communist Party gains seats in parliament

Samoa General Elections: April 9, 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, 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 and Fiame Naomi Mataʻafa was sworn in as prime minister – the first woman to hold the office. However, HRPP has not conceded, and Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi (sometimes called the Trump of Samoa) claims he is still the prime minister.

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, as well as potential geopolitical shifts away from China. More

Radio New Zealand (June 11, 2021): Samoa’s FAST party seeks clarification of court ruling

Anthony Regan, Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter (June 8, 2021): Samoa’s constitutional
crisis and the dangers that have gone before: Leadership turmoil in Samoa bears striking similarities to a stand-off in Papua New Guinea barely a decade earlier.

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

Thant Myint-U, Foreign Affairs (June 11, 2021): Myanmar’s Coming Revolution: What Will Emerge From Collapse?

BBC (June 10, 2021): Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi faces most serious corruption charge yet

Al Jazeera (June 7, 2021): Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial to begin next week

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

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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