Asia This Week: August 20, 2021

August 20, 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.

Malaysia’s new prime minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, might not be able to bring an end to the ongoing political crisis – snap elections are still likely once the COVID-19 emergency ends. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Malekhanif (GNU FDL 1.2)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

Japan, Yokohama Mayoral Election: August 22, 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 22. Incumbent Fumiko Hayashi is running for a fourth term.

Yokohama Election

Reuters (August 22, 2021): Exit polls show ally of Japan’s Suga losing Yokohama election, NHK says

General Elections

JIJI (August 20, 2021): Fumio Kishida set to face Suga again in LDP leadership vote: A year on from losing to Suga in the last LDP leadership race, faction leader to give it another try

Purnendra Jain and Takeshi Kobayashi, Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter (August 18, 2021): The double challenge for Suga

Eric Johnston, Japan Times (August 18, 2021): Former Prime Minister Abe bids for a new role: LDP kingmaker

Taro Kotegawa, Asahi Shimbun (August 16, 2021): Suga borrows from Abe’s playbook in war memorial speech

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.

Northern Territory Local Elections

Alex Barwick, Eliza Goetze, and Saskia Mabin, ABC News Australia (August 19, 2021): Alice Springs Election 2021: Meet the candidates running for mayor

Federal Elections

Jonathan Barrett and Colin Packham, Reuters (August 19, 2021): Locked-up and fed-up: Australian voters put prime minister on notice

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

The Economist (August 21, 2021): Hong Kong’s government is crushing the city’s pro-democracy unions

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 two biggest parties, PM Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the main opposition Congress Party.

Sanjay K. Jha, Telegraph India (August 21, 2021): Opposition leaders unite to prepare for 2024 general election

Kumar Shakti Shekhar, Times of India (August 20, 2021): How Taliban takeover of Afghanistan may help BJP in 2022 UP assembly election

Hindustan Times (August 19, 2021): Congress plans rejig with eye on state 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.

William Kim, The National Interest (August 21, 2021): Nuclear Weapons in South Korea? Not So Fringe Anymore

Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times (August 20, 2021): South Koreans Now Dislike China More Than They Dislike Japan: There is growing anti-China sentiment in South Korea, particularly among young voters. Conservative politicians are eager to turn the antipathy into a presidential election issue.

Yonhap (August 16, 2021): Main opposition’s approval rating drops again amid rift between heavyweights

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.

Mong Palatino, The Diplomat (August 18, 2021): How Rodrigo Duterte Permanently Changed Philippine Elections

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.

Reuters (August 19, 2021): Last living Khmer Rouge leader says not behind Cambodia genocide

Al Jazeera (August 18, 2021): Cambodia jails union leader for two years for ‘incitement’

Ben Sokhean, Khmer Times (August 17, 2021): Parties explore possibility of uniting opposition before polls

Sopheng Cheang and David Rising, AP (August 16, 2021): Ex-Khmer Rouge official appeals genocide verdict in 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 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

AFP (August 22, 2021): Malaysian Prime Minister sworn in as scandal-hit UMNO reclaims leadership

Yen Nee Lee, CBNC (August 20, 2021): Malaysia gets a new prime minister — the country’s third in 3 years

Zsombor Peter, Voice of America (August 20, 2021): Malaysia’s King Names New Prime Minister from Corruption-Mired Party

Daniel Victor, New York Times (August 16, 2021): Malaysia’s prime minister resigns over anger about his handling of the virus

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

Kanak Manu Dixit, Nepali Times (August 18, 2021): Nepal and the Taliban’s second coming: Kathmandu and Kabul are far apart, but the two countries share some difficult history

Kamal Dev Bhattarai, The Diplomat (August 17, 2021): Can Nepal’s New Prime Minister Navigate Rough Political Seas?

Tika R Pradhan, Kathmandu Post (August 16, 2021): Maoist party fears becoming irrelevant, stresses reforms

Indonesia Presidential and Legislative Elections: April 2024 (due)

Indonesia is due to hold presidential and legislative elections in April 2024. In Indonesia’s April 2019 elections – the biggest single day of voting in the history of the world – incumbent Joko Widodo (Jokowi), widely seen as a reformer, defeated challenger Prabowo Subianto for the presidency. Prabowo initially refused to accept the results, and rioting subsequently ensued. Prabowo ultimately did accept the results, but tensions remain, particularly regarding the role of religion in politicsMore

The Economist (August 21, 2021): Indonesia’s president promised reform. Yet it is he who has changed: Democracy is increasingly enfeebled under Jokowi

Tim Lindsey, The Conversation (August 20, 2021): Soeharto: the giant of modern Indonesia who left a legacy of violence and corruption

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

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

Zachary Abuza, War on the Rocks (August 20, 2021 – book review): Authoritarianism and resistance in Myanmar

Bangladesh Parliamentary Elections: December 30, 2018

Bangladesh held general elections to the Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) in December 2018 amid political violence and harassment of the opposition. The Awami League (AL) has been in power since 2009 and is becoming increasingly authoritarianMore

The Economist (August 19, 2021): Critics of Bangladesh’s government are liable to vanish

Human Rights Watch (August 16, 2021): Bangladesh: 86 Victims of Enforced Disappearance Still Missing

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Japan, Mayoral Election in Yokohama: August 22, 2021

Australia, Local Elections in Northern Territory: August 28, 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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