Asia This Week: June 25, 2021

June 25, 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 campaign car supporting Yuriko Koike during Tokyo’s 2016 gubernatorial election (which Koike won). Tokyo holds assembly elections on July 4, and Koike’s Tomin First party hopes to maintain its majority. Photo credit: Wikimedia/ニュース 2016 NEWs (CC BY 3.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

Japan Tokyo Legislative Assembly Elections: July 4, 2021 and General Elections: On or Before October 22, 202

Japan’s local elections take place at various times throughout the year. Tokyo has assembly elections on July 4, 2021. After that, Japan is due to hold general elections by October 22, 2021, but they could happen earlier.

Tokyo’s Assembly is currently dominated by the Tomin First party, founded by Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, who used to belong to the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Japan’s dominant political party. LDP and its coalition partner, the Buddhist party Komeito, are campaigning together in hopes of winning a majority in Tokyo. Pre-election polls show a significant seat loss for Tomin First and a gain for LDP/Komeito. Moreover, some analysts believe that Koike is moving away from her party in the hopes of getting closer to LDP and seeking higher office in Japan’s upcoming parliamentary elections.

In addition, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who replaced Shinzo Abe last year, faces an LDP leadership contest ahead of the general elections.

The Mainichi (June 26, 2021): Editorial: COVID-19, Olympics lie at heart of upcoming Tokyo assembly election

NHK (June 25, 2021): Campaigning starts for Tokyo assembly elections

Simon Denyer, Washington Post (June 24, 2021): Tokyo Olympics just got an important no-confidence vote — from Japan’s emperor

Stratfor (June 24, 2021 – podcast): Essential Geopolitics: Japan’s Political Season

Daisuke Akimoto, The Diplomat (June 22, 2021): Can Japan Fix the Gender Gap in Its Politics?

Nepal Snap Parliamentary Elections: November 12 and 19, 202

Nepal plans to 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

Anil Giri, Kathmandu Post (June 26, 2021): Opposition alliance builds pressure on Oli, but it too faces questions galore

Gopal Sharma, Reuters (June 23, 2021): Nepal’s top court removes most of cabinet in blow to caretaker PM

PTI (June 23, 2021): Nepal SC starts continues hearing on petitions against House dissolution

Kamal Dev Bhattarai, The Wire India (June 23, 2021): As Nepal Political Crisis Prolongs, Narrative On India’s Influence on Internal Matters Gains Steam

Hong Kong Legislative Elections: December 19, 2021

Hong Kong is holding 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

Kelly Ho, Hong Kong Free Press (June 25, 2021): High-profile Hong Kong activists denied bail in appeal over banned Tiananmen vigil

Zen Soo, AP (June 24, 2021): Hong Kong’s last pro-democracy paper sells out final edition

Austin Ramzy and Tiffany May, New York Times (June 24, 2021): What Else Has Hong Kong Lost, Readers Ask as a Paper Is Forced to Shut

Joe Bauer, The National Interest (June 24, 2021): How China Is Continuing to Muzzle Hong Kong

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.

In a surprise geopolitical development, on August 5, 2019, the Modi government made a unilateral decision to strip the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir of its autonomy. The region, which is majority Muslim, is claimed by both India and Pakistan and has sparked three wars. For seventy years, the Indian-controlled part – established as the state of Jammu and Kashmir – enjoyed a high degree of autonomy, but Modi announced that the state would be downgraded into two union territories, effectively centralizing control. Recently, Modi held his first talks with Kashmir leaders, and floated the idea of holding elections there.

Reuters (June 24, 2021): India’s Modi outlines conditions for Kashmir elections in first talks since autonomy revoked

DW (June 24, 2021): India: Narendra Modi hints at Kashmir elections

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.

Elliot Waldman, World Politics Review (June 24, 2021): South Korea’s Conservatives, Long in the Wilderness, Plot a Comeback

S. Nathan Park, Foreign Policy (June 23, 2021): Why So Many Young Men in South Korea Hate Feminism: Loss of privilege has driven an ugly turn to the hard right

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.

Cliff Venzon, Nikkei Asia (June 26, 2021): Noynoy Aquino’s death gives Duterte dynasty upper hand: Passing of former Philippine president shifts landscape ahead of 2022 polls

Mark R Thompson, South China Morning Post (June 25, 2021): Benigno Aquino’s lost liberal ‘yellow’ legacy in the Philippines

Regine Cabato and William Branigin, Washington Post (June 24, 2021): Benigno Aquino III, Philippine president who fought corruption and Chinese territorial claims, dies at 61

Clara Ferreira Marques, Bloomberg (June 21, 2021): After Duterte, the Philippines May Get More Duterte: He can’t stay in the top job when his term ends next year. But President Rodrigo Duterte can and will stage-manage what happens next.

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 (June 23, 2021): Ruling Party Candidate for Cambodia’s Top Election Post Tied to Corruption

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.

Ram Anand, Straits Times (June 22, 2021): Year-end election in Malaysia likely, say PM Muhyiddin’s party colleagues

Thailand, Bangkok Local Elections and Referendum: TBD

Thai officials have said they will schedule elections for other types of local elections (such as Bangkok city council). These follow provincial elections that took place in December 2020 and municipal elections in March 2021.

These elections are taking place in the context of unprecedented protests against the monarchy, and calls for unprecedented types of reforms. These protests have been going on for months. More

Al Jazeera (June 24, 2021): ‘Prayuth, get out’: Thai protesters rally to mark 1932 revolution: Protesters mark the anniversary of the end of Thailand’s absolute monarchy, demanding Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s resignation.

Panu Wongcha-um, Reuters (June 23, 2021): New troubles for Thai leader amid virus surge, fresh protests

Straits Times (June 23, 2021): Thailand to hold referendum on overhaul of charter

Randy Thanthong-Knight, Bloomberg (June 22, 2021): Thai Parliament Allows Referendum as Protesters Plan a Comeback

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

Bangladesh Union Parishad Elections: June 21, 2021

Bangladesh has been holding municipal elections in phases for the past few months. Union Parishads are the smallest unit of local government. On June 21, 204 of them (out of 4,562) held elections.

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 authoritarianMore

Dhaka Tribune (June 23, 2021): 204 UP elections: 148 AL chairman candidates win

Tibet Government-in-Exile Presidential Election: January 3 and April 11, 2021

Tibetans in exile around the world 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 defeated 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. Moreover, China has been ramping up repression in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. However, Tibetans have been developing a democratic system in exile.

Ashwini Bhatia, The Diplomat (June 25, 2021): New President of the Tibetan Exile Government Hopes to Resume Talks With China

Jason Lemon, Newsweek (June 24, 2021): China Military Holds ‘Record-Breaking’ Drill in Tibet Amid Heightened Tensions

Radio Free Asia (June 24, 2021): Missing Tibetan Monk Was Sentenced, Sent to Prison, Family Says

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

Cameron Peters, Vox (June 20, 2021): The UN condemned Myanmar’s coup. Will that matter?

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Japan, Tokyo Assembly Elections: July 4, 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

New Caledonia Independence Referendum: December 12, 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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