Asia This Week: August 27, 2021

August 27, 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.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who faces a leadership contest within his Liberal Democratic Party ahead of general elections due this fall. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Government of Japan (CC BY 4.0)

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.

Mitchell Abram and Isabel Moussalli, ABC News Australia (August 28, 2021): Alice Springs to get first new mayor in over a decade, as Territorians vote in council elections

Tom Lowrey, ABC News Australia (August 26, 2021): Changes to federal election rules including party sizes and names pass Parliament

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.

Nelson Moura, Macau Business (August 27, 2021): Legislative Assembly election campaign period to start with strict pandemic measures

Japan General Elections: By November 2021

Japan is due to hold general elections by November, 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 on September 29. The elections will come on the heels of the Tokyo Olympics, which are controversial among Japanese voters.

Jesse Johnson, Japan Times (August 28, 2021): To China’s chagrin, Japan-Taiwan talks could pave the way for closer ties

Yuko Nakano, Center for Strategic and International Studies (August 27, 2021): Five Things to Watch for in Japan’s Upcoming Elections

Kyodo News (August 26, 2021): PM Suga, Kishida to vie for LDP leadership in Sept. 29 election

Linda Sieg and Yoshifumi Takemoto, Reuters (August 23, 2021): Analysis: Risks of party revolt grow for Japan’s PM Suga after local poll loss

Tonga General Elections: By November 30, 2021 (due)

Tonga is due to hold general elections by November 30, 2021. Along with other Pacific states, it is a focal point of geopolitical competition between China and the world’s democracies.

Susannah Luthi, Politico (August 29, 2021): Meth, Vanilla and ‘Gulags’: How China Has Overtaken the South Pacific One Island at a Time: What’s happening in Tonga is a microcosm of China’s expanding global influence and why the United States is losing ground fast.

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

Zach Coleman, Nikkei Asia (August 26, 2021): Hong Kong purges last opposition voice from legislature

Selina Cheng, Hong Kong Free Press (August 25, 2021): Hong Kong Law Society members with establishment ties now dominate its council after liberals suffer election defeat

James Pomfret, Reuters (August 24, 2021): Hong Kong Law Society election underscores tensions over China, legal system

Kay Lee, Radio Free Asia (August 23, 2021): Candidate Withdraws From Hong Kong Law Society Elections, Citing Intimidation

Selina Cheng, Hong Kong Free Press (August 24, 2021): Democratic Party chief hits back after Lam says political parties shunning Hong Kong elections are ‘strange’

Bhutan Local Elections: Late 2021 (due)

Bhutan is due to hold local elections in some cities in late 2021.

Kuensel (August 28, 2021): Party affiliation could dash aspiring LG candidates’ hopes

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.

Joao da Cruz Cardoso, The Diplomat (August 27, 2021): Is Timor-Leste Ready to Join ASEAN?

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 Kumar, The Indian Express (August 27, 2021): An Expert Explains: Why isn’t the BJP keen on a caste-based census?

Aparna Alluri and Zoya Mateen, BBC (August 23, 2021): Caste census: Clamour to count India social groups grows

Sadanand Dhume, Foreign Affairs (August 24, 2021): How Democratic Is the World’s Largest Democracy?

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.

Sukjoon Yoon, The Diplomat (August 27, 2021): Like It or Not, the South Korea-US Alliance Is Changing

Julian Ryall, DW (August 27, 2021): South Korean journalists fear new laws will muzzle media

Jeong-Ho Lee, Bloomberg (August 25, 2021): South Korea Ruling Party Nears Passing ‘Fake News’ Bill

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 29, 2021): Rival faction in Philippines’ ruling party tries to oust Duterte from chairman role

Jason Gutierrez, New York Times (August 27, 2021): How Rodrigo Duterte Can Stay No. 1 by Becoming No. 2: The president of the Philippines says he’ll run for the vice presidency next year. Critics see a plot to avoid prosecution for the killings in his drug war.

Paolo Barcelon, CNN Philippines (August 26, 2021): 1SAMBAYAN launches Ateneo, La Salle chapters – but analyst says more needs to be done to get youth vote

Zacarian Sarao, Inquirer Philippines (August 24, 2021): 1Sambayan on Duterte’s VP bid: ‘A clear mockery of our Constitution’

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.

Mong Palatino, Global Voices (August 25, 2021): Cambodia’s China-funded mega dam linked to rights abuses and loss of fisheries

Radio Free Asia (August 25, 2021): Jailed Cambodian Union Leader Rong Chhun Urges Supporters to Carry on Fight For Justice

William Echols, (August 23, 2021): Cambodia’s Misleading Excuse for Trampling Free Speech

Malaysia Possible Snap Parliamentary Elections and Sarawak State Elections: To be called shortly after the COVID-19 state of emergency ends

Malaysia will likely 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 as Ismail Sabri Yaakob, from UMNO, became prime minister in August 2021, following protests and general chaos. He replaced Muhyiddin Yassin, who was only in office for 17 months (the shortest-ever tenure of a Malaysian prime minister). More

Shannon Teoh and Ram Anand, The Straits Times (August 29, 2021): Still hope for Malaysia’s opposition pact Pakatan Harapan?

Ram Anand, The Straits Times (August 28, 2021): Anwar’s leadership of Pakatan Harapan questioned after third failed bid for power

Bhavan Jaipragas, South China Morning Post (August 28, 2021): Why the monarchy is the big winner from Malaysia’s political crisis

Editorial Board, Japan Times (August 27, 2021): Malaysia returns to the old order, old ways: Events in the Southeast Asian nation are contributing to the erosion of democracy in the region

Anisah Shukry, Bloomberg (August 25, 2021): Malaysia Opposition Hails ‘Good Beginning’ with New Premier

Dave Lawler, Axios (August 24, 2021): Malaysia’s new prime minister takes office amid COVID surge

Papua New Guinea General Elections: June/July 2022 (due)

Papua New Guinea is due to hold general elections in June or July 2022.

Radio New Zealand (August 27, 2021): PNG court orders recount for election which sparked violence

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

Johannes Nugroho, Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter (August 27, 2021): Will Jokowi pull off a three-peat?

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.

Terence Wood, DevPolicyBlog (August 26, 2021): What political crises in Vanuatu and Samoa tell us about their past and future

Mark Quinlivan, Newshub New Zealand (August 26, 2021): Former Samoa Prime Minister who refused to concede election bizarrely blames Jacinda Ardern for defeat

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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