Asia This Week: August 6, 2021

August 6, 2021

A weekly review of key news and analysis of elections in Asia and the Indo-Pacific, usually posted on Fridays and occasionally updated throughout the week. For a full electoral calendar and interactive map, click here.

Counting votes in Taiwan’s 2020 elections. Taiwan holds a four-question referendum in December, another exercise of democracy. Photo credit: Flickr/tenz1225 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

Australia Local Elections in Northern Territory: August 28, 2021 and Parliamentary Elections: May 2022 (due – snap elections possible)

Australia’s federal parliamentary elections are due by 2022, but snap elections could happen. In Australia’s last federal elections in May 2019, the conservative Liberal Party, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, won a surprise victory, even though polls had predicted that Labor would oust them. The Liberals are currently in their third term in government.

Meanwhile, several states hold various types of elections in 2021. Northern Territory is the next to vote, with local elections on August 28.

David Smith, The Conversation (August 5, 2021): A ‘Christian nation’ no longer: why Australia’s religious right loses policy battles even when it wins elections

Japan, Yokohama Mayoral Election: August 29, 2021 and General Elections: On or Before October 22, 2021

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.

Before that, Yokohama, Japan’s second-biggest city, holds a mayoral election on August 29. Incumbent Fumiko Hayashi is running for a fourth term.

Tetsuya Saito, Nikkei Asia (August 7, 2021): Yokohama election tests Japan’s casino push amid COVID headwind: Fierce mayoral race pits incumbent against raft of candidates opposing resort

JIJI (August 4, 2021): Japan’s ruling LDP to decide date of leadership election on Aug. 26

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.

Selina Cheng, Hong Kong Free Press (August 3, 2021): Macau politician says he fears further action after democrats barred from legislative election

Macau Business (August 2, 2021): Lisbon, Beijing agree Macau is “specific case” – Portuguese FM

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

Ben Fox, AP (August 6, 2021): As democracy dims in Hong Kong, US offers an 18-month safe haven

Selina Cheng, Hong Kong Free Press (August 5, 2021): Centrist party finds it hard to pass first hurdle in Hong Kong’s new ‘patriots only’ political era

Zen Soo and Matthew Cheng, AP (August 5, 2021): Corruption charges dropped for Hong Kong singer, activist

Ahmed Aboudouh, The Independent (August 3, 2021): By arresting singer, China is crushing any glimpse of opposition ahead of Hong Kong elections

Wenxin Fan, Wall Street Journal (August 2, 2021): Hong Kong Pop Singer Anthony Wong Yiu-ming Arrested for Singing at a 2018 Election Rally

Taiwan Referendum: December 18, 2021

Taiwan, a robust democracy, is due to hold a referendum on December 18 with four questions (on algae reef protection, lifting restrictions on pork imports from the U.S., the activation of a nuclear plant, and referendum dates).

The country held presidential and legislative elections in January 2020. President Tsai Ing-Wen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the legislative elections and Tsai herself was re-elected president. The DPP, established in 1986 during Taiwan’s transition to democracy, supports Taiwan’s independence. The main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), founded by Sun Yat-Sen, favors closer ties to the mainland, which it ruled from 1925 to 1948. Relations with China are a dominant theme in Taiwan’s political debate.

Sarah A. Topol, New York Times (August 4, 2021): Is Taiwan Next? In Taipei, young people like Nancy Tao Chen Ying watched as the Hong Kong protests were brutally extinguished. Now they wonder what’s in their future

Bill Sharp, East Asia Forum (August 3, 2021): Tsai’s high stakes on Taiwan’s upcoming referendum

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) and potentially a constitutional referendum. 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

Punchada Sirivunnabood, Channel News Asia (August 7, 2021): Commentary: Thailand’s old camps united in anti-government angst

Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat, Reuters (August 3, 2021): A year after taboo on Thai king broken, 103 face jail for royal insult

Human Rights Watch (August 3, 2021): Thailand: Immediately Repeal Emergency Regulation that Threatens Online Freedoms

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.

Rahul Noronha, India Today (August 5, 2021): Why Madhya Pradesh’s urban body and panchayat elections remain delayed

Neelanjan Sircar, World Politics Review (August 5, 2021): Modi’s aura of invincibility is starting to crumble

Michael Rubin, The National Interest (August 3, 2021): India Proves Critics Wrong on Kashmir: While much of the world treated it with opprobrium two years ago, subsequent events show the Indian government’s move was both wise and prescient.

Ashish Ranjan, India Today (July 31, 2021): Why UP politics looks more Brahmin-centric for 2022 elections

Philippines Presidential Election: May 9, 2022

Philippines holds a 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, 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.

Duterte has made moves to bring the Philippines closer to China and away from the United States during his tenure in office, but has ultimately kept the defense pact with the U.S. in tact.

Reuters (August 6, 2021): Philippine ruling party leaders endorse Duterte for VP in 2022

Kevin Nielsen Agojo, The Diplomat (August 6, 2021): Extending Their Call of Duty? Ex-Police Officers Running for Office in the Philippines

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 and Helen Jarvis, The Diplomat (August 6, 2021 – podcast): After 15 Years, Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge Tribunal Nears Its End

Reuters (August 5, 2021): U.S. senators to reintroduce bill targeting Cambodian officials on rights

Radio Free Asia (August 4, 2021): Cambodian Opponents Form New Political Parties, With PM’s Blessing: Analysts say division in opposition helps the ruling party keep rivals off balance.

Fiji Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due)

Fiji is due to hold parliamentary elections in November 2022. In 2006, Josaia Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama seized power in a coup. Since then, the country has held several sets of elections  that Bainimarama has won. Despite concerns about media freedom and political space for the opposition, some observers have deemed the elections credible – Bainimarama has at least brought political stability, making him popular with many Fijians.

Steven Ratuva, Radio New Zealand (August 2, 2021): Repression not the answer to Fiji’s political dilemma

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 in August (likely will be delayed), 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

The Economist (August 5, 2021): Malaysia’s politics are rotten from the top

Hadi Azmi, Yantoultra Ngui and Anisah Shukry, Bloomberg News (August 4, 2021): Malaysia’s Political Woes Worsen as Key Party Leaves Ruling Bloc

PTI (August 4, 2021): Malaysian PM refuses to resign, delays vote by a month

Alifah Zainuddin, The Diplomat (August 2, 2021): Malaysia’s Youth Step Up Protests As Political Crisis Deepens: Young protestors gather momentum as calls for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s resignation grow louder

Bhavan Jaipragas, South China Morning Post (August 2, 2021): Malaysia’s Muhyiddin has mastered dodging the opposition – but will a showdown with the king prove his undoing

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

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.

FAST ultimately won the knife-edge election, but the former prime minister refused to concede and the ensuing political standoff lasted more than three months. Following a court decision, 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.

Catherine Wilson, World Politics Review (August 6, 2021): A New Political Era Dawns in Samoa

Natalie Liu, Voice of America (August 5, 2021): Samoa Election Seen as Setback to China’s Pacific Ambitions 

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

Tommy Walker, Voice of America (August 6, 2021): The Battle for Myanmar Six Months After the Coup

AFP (August 3, 2021): US dismisses Myanmar election plan, urges ASEAN pressure

Sebastian Strangio, The Diplomat (August 2, 2021): Myanmar Junta Forms Caretaker Government, Promises Elections in 2023: But the announcement will do little to convince the large proportion of the Myanmar public opposing military rule.

AP (August 2, 2021): Myanmar’s Military Leader Declares Himself Prime Minister And Promises Elections

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

Taiwan Referendum: December 18, 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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