Asia/Pacific This Week: July 16, 2021

July 16, 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.

Nepal voters waiting to cast their ballots in 2016. Nepalis will once again have to wait a bit longer to cast their ballots as snap elections set for November have been postponed. Elections will probably take place when they are actually due, in January 2022. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Krish Dulal (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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.

Selena Cheng, Hong Kong Free Press (July 14, 2021): Macau democrat banned from election over pics with Hong Kong opposition, Taiwan tour, and Tiananmen Massacre vigils

LUSA (July 14, 2021): Hong Kong newspapers accuse candidates removed from the Macau elections of links to the CIA

Helen Davidson, The Guardian (July 13, 2021): China bans pro-democracy candidates in Macau elections: Move mirrors crackdown in Hong Kong and comes despite pledges the territory would have high levels of autonomy

Nelson Moura, Macau Business (July 12, 2021): Criticising the Communist Party of China included as criteria for disqualifying legislator candidates

Japan General Elections: On or Before October 22, 2021 (plus Hyogo Prefecture gubernatorial election on July 17).

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.

Gubernatorial elections take place at various times throughout the year. Hyogo Prefecture holds its gubernatorial election on July 17.

Linda Sieg, Reuters (July 16, 2021): Analysis: Unpopular Olympics, COVID-19: Japan’s Suga risks becoming short-term premier

Timor-Leste Local Elections: October 2021 (due) and Presidential Election: March 2022 (due)

Timor-Leste (also called East Timor) is due to hold local elections in October 2021 and a presidential election in March 2022. Since winning independence from Indonesia in a referendum 20 years ago, Timor-Leste has become a democracy rated Free by Freedom House, although some challenges remain.

James Gomez, Jakarta Post (July 16, 2021): Timor-Leste’s internet freedoms at risk

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

Al Jazeera/Reuters (July 17, 2021): US sanctions Chinese officials over Hong Kong democracy crackdown

Jeffie Lam, South China Morning Post (July 16, 2021): Hong Kong’s district councils: with opposition members resigning in droves as oath looms, what happens next to these local bodies?

Christy Leung, South China Morning Post (July 14, 2021): Hong Kong electoral changes: powerful vetting committee that will review hopefuls in coming polls holds first meeting

Tommy Walker, Voice of America (July 14, 2021): Civil Society Groups Must Be ‘Politically Correct’ to Escape Prosecution

Kelly Ho, Hong Kong Free Press (July 14, 2021): ‘Liberate Hong Kong’ slogan says independence ‘to some people,’ politics scholar tells first national security trial

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.

The Economist (July 15, 2021): Sri Lanka’s Rajapaksa dynasty is not as secure as it appears

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.

Arunabh Saikia, Scroll India (July 15, 2021): BJP did not sweep UP rural council polls. But does that matter ahead of the assembly 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.

Mitch Shin, The Diplomat (July 14, 2021): Can a 36-Year-Old Leader Transform South Korea’s Conservative 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.

Cliff Venzon, Nikkei Asia (July 14, 2021): Rodrigo Duterte tops poll to be next Philippine vice president: Sara Duterte increases lead as preferred successor to her father in 2022

Reuters (July 12, 2021): Philippines calls allegation of China election influence ‘nonsense’

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.

Kimkong Heng, Eurasia Review (July 18, 2021): Cambodia To Chair ASEAN In Choppy Waters – Analysis

Tin Sokhavuth, Khmer Times (July 15, 2021): NGOs outline six conditions for ‘free and fair’ Commune Election

Sebastian Strangio, The Diplomat (July 12, 2021): Key Questions Remain Unanswered in Killing of Cambodian Activist

Nepal Snap Parliamentary Elections: November 12 and 19, 2021 (POSTPONED – elections will likely happen when due in January 2022)

Nepal had planned to hold snap elections in November 2021, following a protracted political crisis, but now the snap elections have been cancelled, and the current thinking is that the parliamentary elections will take place when they are due in January 2022. 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

AP (July 18, 2021): Nepal’s new PM gets confidence vote in parliament: Nepal’s new prime minister got the support of more than half the members of House of Representatives, allowing him to continue in power until general elections scheduled for next year

Arun Budhathoki,The Diplomat (July 15, 2021): Nepal’s Democracy Enters Another Challenging Phase: The recent Supreme Court order reinstating parliament has put the constitution back on track.

Binaj Gurubacharya, The Diplomat (July 14, 2021): Nepal Gets a New Prime Minister (For Now)

PTI (July 13, 2021): Nepal’s Election Commission postpones November’s parliamentary poll after Supreme Court reinstates dissolved House

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.

Anuradha Raghu, Bloomberg (July 16, 2021): How the Pandemic Is Keeping Malaysia’s Politics Messy

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

Munkhnaran Bayarlkhagva, Al Jazeera (July 18, 2021): Mongolia edges towards autocracy: The consolidation of power in the hands of the MPP is pushing the country towards a hybrid single-party regime.

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

N Sathiya Moorthy, Observer Research Foundation (July 13, 2021): Instability stares hard at Maldives as Nasheed breaks political ties with Solih

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 (July 15, 2021): Samoa’s HRPP loses another seat in petitions

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

Bertil Lintner, The Irrawaddy (July 16, 2021): Banning the NLD Won’t End Resistance to Military Rule

Radio Free Asia (July 15, 2021): Half of Journalists Arrested Since Myanmar Coup Remain in Detention

Radio Free Asia (July 13, 2021): Mass Murder of Civilians in Myanmar’s Sagaing Region Amounts to ‘War Crime,’ Says Rights Lawyer

Voice of America (July 12, 2021): Criminal Hearings Resume for Myanmar’s Deposed Civilian Leader

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 (POSTPONED – scheduled elections now due January 2022)

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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