Asia This Week: July 9, 2021

July 9, 2021

A weekly review of key 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.

Campaign posters during Macau’s 2017 legislative elections. Macau heads to the polls in September, this time with many pro-democracy candidates banned. Photo credit: Wikimedia/No1lovesu (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

Macau Legislative Elections: September 12, 2021

Macau is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, having reverted from Portuguese control to Chinese control in 1999. The main industry is gaming, with a casino sector seven times the size of that of Las Vegas. The legislature is dominated by pro-Beijing politicians, who hold 29 out of the 33 seats, with pro-democracy politicians holding the remaining four.

Danny Mok, South China Morning Post (July 10, 2021): In first for Macau, election chiefs disqualify 21 opposition members from running in September legislative elections

Rhoda Kwan, Hong Kong Free Press (July 10, 2021): Macau bans 21 democrats from legislative elections

Japan General Elections: On or Before October 22, 2021

After that, Japan is due to hold general elections by October 22, 2021, but they could happen earlier. These come on the heels of Tokyo Assembly elections, in which Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) did not win a majority. Before the elections, the assembly was dominated by the Tomin First party, founded by Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, who used to belong to LDP.

In addition, Suga, who replaced Shinzo Abe last year, faces an LDP leadership contest in September.

The Economist (July 10, 2021): Election results from Tokyo bring bad news for Japan’s prime minister: Yet his party is likely to remain the dominant force nationally

Arielle Busetto, Japan Forward (July 8, 2021): Tokyo Assembly Elections Result a Vote of Confidence for Governor Yuriko Koike

Reuters (July 8, 2021): Tokyo governor says Olympics without spectators ‘heartbreaking’

Yuki Tatsumi, The Diplomat (July 7, 2021): Tokyo Local Elections Are a Wake-up Call for Japan’s Ruling Party

Al Jazeera (July 5, 2021): Suga’s LDP falls short of majority in Tokyo city election

Nepal Snap Parliamentary Elections: November 12 and 19, 2021

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

Tribune India (July 7, 2021): In Nepal, elections from Nov 12 to 19

Bishnu Adhikari, Parshuram Upadhyaya, Amol Acharya, and Abhas Ghimire, Asia Foundation (July 7, 2021): Nepal’s Unsteady Progress Towards Fiscal Federalism

Tika R Pradhan, Kathmandu Post (July 5, 2021): Oli’s aversion to federalism and secularism becoming more apparent

PTI (July 5, 2021): Nepal Election Body Announces Schedule For Mid-Term Polls Despite Uncertainty

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

AFP (July 10, 2021): Communist Party emerges from shadows during Hong Kong crackdown

Shawn Donnan, Bloomberg (July 10, 2021): U.S. and Allies Condemn Crackdown on Hong Kong’s Apple Daily

Lilian Cheng, South China Morning Post (July 8, 2021): More than 70 Hong Kong opposition district councillors quit ahead of coming cull under new rule aimed at removing ‘unpatriotic’ office-holders

Candice Chau, Hong Kong Free Press (July 6, 2021): Security law: At least 8 Hong Kong pro-democracy groups disband in past 2 weeks, including lawyers’ group

Sri Lanka Provincial Elections: 2021

Sri Lanka plans to hold provincial elections in 2021. In the 2019 presidential election, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brother of former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, won.  Sri Lanka’s democracy sits on the precipice.

Mujib Mashal, New York Times (July 10, 2021): In Sri Lanka, the Government Looks Increasingly Like a Family Firm

Al Jazeera (July 9, 2021): Sri Lanka’s Rajapaksa family tightens grip with ministerial picks

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 addition, Uttar Pradesh held local elections on July 3.

Ashok Sharma, The Diplomat (July 8, 2021): India’s Modi Drops 12 Cabinet Ministers in Massive Reshuffle

Ashish Misra, India Today (July 7, 2021): What UP’s panchayat elections say about the 2022 assembly elections: The BJP sweeps the July 3 district panchayat elections after working out a caste-formula. The party says it puts them on a strong wicket ahead of the state polls next year

The Wire India (July 6, 2021): For the First Time as PM, Modi Speaks to the Dalai Lama

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.

Jung Da-min, Korea Times (July 9, 2021): Ruling party struggling to distance itself from President Moon

Jenna GIbson, The Diplomat (July 8, 2021): South Korea’s 2022 Presidential Race Is Taking Shape: Candidate have begun to officially declare their ambitions. Here are the names to know.

Nam Hyun-woo, Korea Times (July 6, 2021): Expectations, concerns mixed as millennials to speak for main opposition party

Philippines Presidential Election: May 9, 2022

Philippines holds its next presidential election on 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, potentially his daughter Sara Duterte. 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 (July 7, 2021): Why are Former Philippine Presidents Running for Lower-Level Posts? President Duterte’s mooted vice presidential run would follow in the footsteps of other recent ex-leaders.

Pia Ranada, Rappler (July 7, 2021): Amid Sara Duterte hype, 5 political parties seek 2022 coalition with HNP

Felix K. Chang, Foreign Policy Research Institute (July 7, 2021): Hot and Cold: The Philippines’ Relations with China (and the United States)

Cliff Venzon, Financial Times (July 6, 2021): Noynoy Aquino’s death gives Duterte dynasty upper hand in Philippines: Passing of former president shifts landscape ahead of 2022 polls

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.

AFP (July 10, 2021): Family of slain Cambodia activist Kem Ley mark five year anniversary

George Wright, BBC News (July 10, 2021): Kem Ley: A shooting that shook Cambodia

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.

Eileen Ng, AP (July 8, 2021): Malaysia’s top lawyer: PM still in power after ally quits

Rozanna Latiff, Reuters (July 8, 2021): Key party in Malaysia alliance pulls support for troubled PM

Anuradha Raghu, Bloomberg (July 8, 2021): How the Pandemic Is Keeping Malaysia’s Politics Messy

Thailand, Bangkok Local Elections and Referendum: TBD

Thai officials have said they will schedule elections soon for various 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

Reuters (July 8, 2021): Thai ‘red shirt’ leader ordered back to jail, cuts short comeback

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

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

RNZ (July 8, 2021): FAST to ask Samoa judges to recognise impromptu swearing in

Sapeer Mayron, Stuff New Zealand (July 5, 2021): Samoa election turmoil: Court ruling rejected by head of state

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

Amanda Battersby, Upstream (July 8, 2021): UN calls for release of Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi: De facto leader in court again this week as death toll since February coup approaches 900

Bertil Lintner, The Irrawaddy (July 6, 2021): Myanmar’s Orwellian New Order

Vanuatu General Elections: March 19-20, 2020

Vanuatu held general elections in March 2020.

Tess Newton Cain, The Guardian (July 7, 2021): Precarious moment: Vanuatu court to rule on prime minister’s fate

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Japan, Gubernatorial Election in Hyogo: July 18, 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

Malaysia, Sarawak State Elections: Due in 2021, but postponed until COVID state of emergency is lifted

Malaysia, Snap General Elections: Expected as soon as COVID state of emergency is lifted

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)

Cambodia Local Elections: June 5, 2022

Papua New Guinea Parliamentary Elections: June 2022 (due)

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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