Asia This Week: July 23, 2021

July 23, 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.

Entering the tennis facility at the Tokyo Olympics. The Olympics are playing a big role in Japanese politics ahead of elections due later this year. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Syced (CC0 1.0)

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.

Most recently, pro-democracy candidates were banned from the upcoming elections, mirroring Hong Kong’s crackdown on democracy.

LUSA (July 23, 2021): Disqualified election candidates appeal in hope of ‘judicial independence’

Nelson Moura, Macau Business (July 22, 2021): Disqualifications of Legislative Assembly candidates not related to criticisms of local Gov’t, says Chief Executive

Nelson Moura, Macau Business (July 21, 2021): Electoral Affairs Commission rejects complaints filed by disqualified 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. The elections will come on the heels of the Tokyo Olympics, which are controversial among Japanese voters.

Tobias Harris, Nikkei Asia (July 21, 2021): Japan’s ruling coalition is not as secure as it looks: Unpopular prime minister faces an increasingly united opposition

Eric Johnston, Japan Times (July 20, 2021): Tokyo poll result cements Yuriko Koike’s status as a political survivor

Phillip Y. Lipscy and Daniel M. Smith, Washington Post (July 19, 2021): Nobody can go to the Tokyo Olympics. So why is the government going ahead with them? The political stakes are high, as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga must face voters in a general election this fall

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

Rhoda Kwan, Hong Kong Free Press (July 23, 2021): Ousted Hong Kong legislator Dennis Kwok warns of ‘risks’ to int’l business from security law

Man Hoi Yan, Radio Free Asia (July 22, 2021): Hong Kong Police Arrest Five Over ‘Seditious’ Sheep in Childrens’ Books

Theodora Yu, Washington Pot (July 22, 2021): Hong Kong jails seven over notorious mob attack during 2019 protests

AP (July 22, 2021): London Mayor Issues Message of Support to Hong Kong Migrants: London’s mayor has sent a message of support to Hong Kong people fleeing China’s crackdown on democracy to seek a new life in the United Kingdom.

Phelim Kine, Politico (July 21, 2021): Hong Kong pro-democracy activists beg Congress for refugee status

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.

AFP (July 19, 2021): Rajapaksa to seek second term as Sri Lanka crisis deepens

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.

Rahul Shrivastava and Dipu Rai, India Today (July 22, 2021): Presidential polls and beyond: Why Uttar Pradesh elections are crucial?

Sushant Singh, Foreign Policy (July 21, 2021): India’s Watergate Moment: A journalist hacked by Pegasus says he will survive, but Indian democracy may not.

Shoaib Daniyal, (July 20, 2021): Supreme Court, EC, Opposition: Spyware attack threatens pillars of India’s electoral democracy

Joanna Slater and Niha Masih, Washington Post (July 19, 2021): The spyware is sold to governments to fight terrorism. In India, it was used to hack journalists and others.

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.

Andrew Injoo Park, South China Morning Post (July 20, 2021): How South Korea’s 2022 presidential election could reshape its US-China balancing act

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. Boxing star Manny Pacquiao, a former Duterte ally, has been discussed as a possible presidential candidate for 1Sambayan.

Carlos Santamaria, GZERO (July 19, 2021): Thrilla in Manila: Duterte vs Pacquiao

Australia Parliamentary Elections: May 2022 (due – snap elections possible)

Australia’s federal parliamentary elections are due by 2022, but snap elections could happen. Meanwhile, several states hold elections in 2021.

Tensions with China are rising as Australia’s federal government has cancelled several Belt and Road deals. More

Sky News (July 23, 2021): Local government elections in NSW set to be postponed for a second year

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.

Ben Sokhean, Khmer Times (July 23, 2021): Polls timetable set: NEC outlines Commune Election calendar

Radio Free Asia (July 23, 2021): CNRP Activist Arrested After Returning to Cambodia to Start a Business

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. More

Pankaj C. Kumar, The Star Malaysia (July 24, 2021): Malaysia needs a big reset button

Joseph Chinyong Liow and Ariel Tan, South China Morning Post (July 24, 2021): In Malaysia, what lies beneath the divorce of Umno and Muhyiddin’s Bersatu?

Joshua Kurlantzick, World Politics Review (July 23, 2021): Malaysia’s Political Crisis Is Dooming Its COVID-19 Response

Nepal Snap Elections: Early 2023 (due)

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 2023. 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. However, the courts reversed the decision.

Nepal sits in the strategically-important Himalayas, and is a focus of competition between India and China. More

Aneka Rebecca Rajbhandari and Raunab Singh Khatri, Nepali Times (July 23, 2021): China reacts to Nepal regime change: Chinese government and netizens are keeping careful tabs on recent political developments in Nepal

Kunal Purohit, South China Morning Post (July 21, 2021): Will Nepal’s new ‘pro-India’ prime minister hit reset on its China ties?

PTI (July 18, 2021): Nepal’s new PM Sher Bahadur Deuba wins vote of confidence in Parliament

Past Asia/Pacific 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

Stewart Rees, The Diplomat (July 23, 2021): In Vietnam, the Party’s Rolling Crackdown on Dissent Continues

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. The country, in the strategically-important Indian Ocean, has been part of geopolitical competition between India and the democratic world on the one hand and China on the other hand. More

N Sathiya Moorthy, Observer Research Foundation (July 21, 2021): Maldives: Nasheed’s call to end extremists’ dominance in elections can cut both ways

Marwaan Macan-Markar, Nikkei Asia (July 22, 2021): Hate crime bill widens Islamic divisions in the Maldives: ’Irreligious’ or not? Debate splits ruling party, fuels instability in South Asia

Samoa General Elections: April 9, 2021

Samoa held general elections on April 9, 2021, and after a post-election roller coaster ride, a new prime minister has finally been inaugurated and approved by the courts. 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. A court ultimately confirmed her victory, ending the political crisis.

Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson and Kate Lyons, The Guardian (July 23, 2021): Samoa’s political crisis ends and first female prime minister installed after court ruling: Fiame Naomi Mata’afa was confirmed by Samoa’s court of appeal to be the country’s first female prime minister, ending the 22-year reign of the former leader

Marian Faa and Jordan Fennell, ABC News Australia (July 23, 2021): Samoa welcomes first female Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa following court ruling

Radio New Zealand (July 20, 2021): Samoan traditional systems remain strong through political crisis – Academic

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)

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)

Nepal Parliamentary Elections: January 2022 (due)

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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