August 13, 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.
A building in Nepal’s Durbar Square. Nepal could be moving away from China and closer to India. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Alexey Komarov (CC BY-SA 4.0)
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.
Byron Kaye and Jill Gralow, Reuters (August 10, 2021): ‘We are not the virus’: Two-tier Delta lockdowns divide Sydney
Alice Taylor, Exit Albania (August 10, 2021): Western Balkan Troll Networks Targeted Australia’s 2019 Federal 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.
Devin O’Connor, Casino.org (August 10, 2021): Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga Backs Yokohama Anti-Casino Candidate: Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has narrowed down his pick of the eight candidates running for mayor of Yokohama. And to some surprise, Suga isn’t backing the incumbent who shares his party affiliation.
Sintaro Kamimura, Inside Asian Gaming (August 9, 2021): Record eight candidates confirmed to run in Yokohama mayoral election
Casino takes top billing, but Yokohama mayoral election may offer hints to Suga's fate. https://t.co/J6nHoMMskX
— magdalena osumi 💁🏼♀️ (@jt_mag_os) August 8, 2021
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
Walter Sim, Straits Times (August 14, 2021): Can embattled Japan PM Suga break the post-Olympics jinx?
A few key takeouts from my interview with Nobuo Kishi: Australia should take more of a leadership role in south-east Asia and the Pacific, pacifist constitutional debate likely to re-emerge after the election, and Abe, his brother, is fighting fit. https://t.co/aNxXQYBoIU
— Eryk Bagshaw (@ErykBagshaw) August 12, 2021
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
Selina Cheng, Hong Kong Free Press (August 14, 2021): Analysis: How almost everyone running for Hong Kong’s new election committee will get a seat automatically
— Daniel Twining (@DCTwining) August 13, 2021
Eric Lam and Kari Soo Lindberg, Bloomberg (August 12, 2021): Hong Kong’s Population Shrinks By 89,000 in Just 12 Months
Jeffie Lam, South China Morning Post (August 10, 2021): Bitter internal row brewing within Hong Kong’s Democratic Party over whether to contest Legislative Council elections
Vivian Wang and Joy Dong, New York Times (August 8, 2021): How an Obscure Swim Club Got a Say in Choosing Hong Kong’s Leader
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.
Jiangli Yang, Newsweek (August 13, 2021): Taiwanese Identity Grows Stronger as China Seeks Reunification
Timothy S. Rich, Madelynn Einhorn, and Isabel Eliassen, Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter (August 13, 2021): Taiwan: The age-old question of who gets a vote
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.
Korea Times (August 11, 2021): Main opposition party sees sharp membership increase in run-up to presidential election
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.
Raissa Robles, South China Morning Post (August 14, 2021): Duterte said China pledged billions of dollars to the Philippines. What happened to it?
Michael Beltran, The Diplomat (August 13, 2021): Duterte Vs the International Criminal Court
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.
Tomoya Onishi, Nikkei Asia (August 13, 2021): Cambodia drawn ever closer to China a year after EU sanctions
Radio Free Asia (August 10, 2021): Families of Jailed Cambodian Activists Call on Government to Drop Incitement Charges
Papua New Guinea General Elections: June/July 2022 (due)
Papua New Guinea is due to hold general elections in June or July 2022.
Johnny Blades, Radio New Zealand (August 13, 2021): PNG considers major electoral changes before 2022 polls
Nepal General 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. Although former prime minister KP Sharma Oli brought Nepal closer to China, his replacement, Sher Bahadur Deuba, who assumed office in July 2021, is seen as favoring closer ties to India. More
Seong Hyeon Choi, Eurasia Review (August 13, 2021): The BRI In Nepal: China’s Outreach To The Himalayas – Analysis
The Sentinel Assam (August 13, 2021): Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba puts India ahead of China
#editorial Ever since the restoration of multiparty #democracy in 1990, #Nepal’s personality-driven politics has split because of personality clashes. The need to buy loyalty to divide and rule, or to keep parties together, contributed to the rot.https://t.co/6QlNUVGfTP
— Nepali Times (@NepaliTimes) August 13, 2021
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.
Al Jazeera (August 14, 2021): Thai protesters clash with police at anti-PM rally in Bangkok
Ryan Ashley and Moez Hayat, The Diplomat (August 12, 2021): Making the ‘Network Monarchy’ Work in Thailand’s Deep South: A deeper view of Thailand’s southern insurgency reveals more about the nature of a nation facing new challenges from a vocal, youthful generation.
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
Norman Goh and Bhavan Jaipragas, South China Morning Post (August 13, 2021): Malaysia’s political crisis: opposition accuse embattled PM Muhyiddin of ‘corruption’ after offer of sweeping concessions, promise of poll by July 2022
Reuters (August 13, 2021): Malaysia’s opposition, key ally reject PM’s offer for bipartisan support
Eileen Ng, AP (August 13, 2021): Malaysian leader seeks opposition backing to stay in power
Maldives Presidential Election: September 2023 (due)
Maldives is due to hold a presidential election in September 2023. The idyllic archipelago 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
Anand Kumar, IDSA (August 13, 2021): Implications of Political Dissonance in the Maldives
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
David I. Steinberg, The Irrawaddy (August 14, 2021: Myanmar Junta’s Caretaker Government on Course to Fail
Sebastian Strangio, The Diplomat (August 13, 2021): Myanmar’s Former Military Dictator Hospitalized Due to COVID-19: Than Shwe’s illness is paralleled by the collapse of the crafted system of semi-democracy that he engineered.
Robin Gomes, Vatican News (August 8, 2021): Myanmar protesters mark 1988 uprising
The Economist (August 14, 2021): Democracy is decaying in a growing number of Asian polities: Elected autocrats are undermining checks and balances
Australia, Local Elections in Northern Territory: August 28, 2021
Japan, Mayoral Election in Yokohama: August 29, 2021
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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