Asia This Week: September 24, 2021

September 24, 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.

Takaichi Sanae (right) hopes to become Japan’s first female prime minister. While she isn’t currently the frontrunner in the Liberal Democratic Party’s upcoming leadership contest, she is gaining momentum thanks to former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s endorsement. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Government of Japan (CC BY 4.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

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, the LDP will hold a leadership contest on September 29. The winner will become prime minister and will lead the party into the general elections. Suga has announced that he will not seek re-election, and four candidates are running to succeed him. The result is far from certain. The two frontrunners appear to be former foreign minister Kishida Fumio and current vaccine czar Kono Taro, but former internal affairs minister Takaichi Sanae is gathering momentum, helped by former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s enthusiastic endorsement. She hopes to become Japan’s first female prime minister. Finally, former gender equality minister Noda Seiko rounds out the field with a long shot candidacy. 

Elliot Waldman, World Politics Review (September 24, 2021): A Refreshingly Competitive Leadership Race for Japan’s Ruling Party

The Economist (September 23, 2021): Japan readies itself for an unpredictable ballot: The ruling party’s leadership contest may matter more than the next national election

Julian Ryall, South China Morning Post (September 21, 2021): Japan’s ‘Iron Lady’ Sanae Takaichi focuses on Taiwan, US in appeal to China hawks before LDP vote

Mari Yamaguchi, AP (September 17, 2021): Japan governing party begins race to pick Suga successor

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

Doug Bandow, Foreign Policy (September 23, 2021): Hong Kong’s National Security Promises Were All Hollow: The Beijing-backed law is now used to crush dissent across the board.

Oliver Young, China Digital Times (September 23, 2021): Hong Kong’s expansive National Security Law swallows activists, bail requests, and M&Ms

Helen Davidson, The Guardian (September 23, 2021): Hong Kong leader defends election after single non-establishment figure picked for 1,500-strong committee

Chris Lau and Jeffie Lam, South China Morning Post (September 22, 2021): Hong Kong elections: ‘majority support’ among Democratic Party members for Legislative Council boycott following Beijing’s system overhaul

Stephen Vines, Hong Kong Free Press (September 22, 2021): Hong Kong’s small-circle election: an incompetent, predictable farce

Jacky Wong, Wall Street Journal (September 20, 2021): Hong Kong Tycoons Won’t Escape China Crackdown

Kenji Kawase, Nikkei Asia (September 20, 2021): Hong Kong police seize M&M’s as national security threat

Didi Tang, Times of London (September 18, 2021): Hong Kong police to deploy one officer per voter for committee elections

Kevin Drew, U.S. News and World Report (September 16, 2021): Hong Kong Crackdown a Part of China’s Larger Strategy

Taiwan Referendum: December 18, 2021 and Local Elections: November 2022 (due)

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). After that, local elections are due in November 2022.

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.

Itamar Waksman, SupChina (September 24, 2021): Ahead of chair election, a critical moment for Taiwan’s KMT

Lawrence Chung, South China Morning Post (September 20, 2021): Taiwan: will dark horse pushing cross-strait union upend two-way race for KMT chair

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.

Salimah Shivji, CBC News (September 20, 2021): India’s protesting farmers set sights on key state election

Hindustan Times (September 19, 2021): Assembly elections 2022: As Punjab gets a new chief minister, here’s all you need to know

Reuters (September 18, 2021): Punjab’s chief minister quits ahead of Indian 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.

Victor Cha, Foreign Affairs (September 22, 2021): The Last Chance to Stop North Korea?

Sotaro Suzuki, Nikkei Asia (September 21, 2021): South Korean presidential campaign mired in mudslinging

Yonhap (September 19, 2021): Ruling party chief says U.S. policy on N. Korea remains too ‘vague’

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.

AP (September 22, 2021): Manila mayor, ex-scavenger and actor, to seek presidency

Neil Jerome Morales, Reuters (September 20, 2021): Factbox: Politicians tipped for Philippines 2022 presidential race

Regine Cabato and Jennifer Hassan, Washington Post (September 20, 2021): Boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao announces run for Philippines president

BBC (September 19, 2021): Manny Pacquiao: Boxing star to run for Philippines president

Rebecca Ratcliffe and Carmela Fonbuena, The Guardian (September 18, 2021): Will she run for president? Duterte’s daughter keeps the Philippines guessing

Rebecca Falconer, Axios (September 16, 2021): ICC authorizes full investigation into Duterte’s deadly drugs war

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.

Radio Free Asia (September 22, 2021): Leader of Cambodia’s Banned Opposition Party Would Offer Amnesty to Hun Sen

Luke Hunt, The Diplomat (September 22, 2021): The Election Bells are Again Ringing Early in Cambodia: Charges against a political analyst were dropped on the urging of a Zoom-bombing prime minister.

Sopheng Cheang, AP (September 17, 2021): Cambodian leader boasts he barged into opposition video call

Australia 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. Morrison has been criticized for his “COVID zero” strategy that has been used to justify increasingly authoritarian policies.

Meanwhile, several states hold various types of elections in 2021.

Anthony Klan, Financial Times (September 19, 2021): Morrison’s submarine deal threatens to split Australian opposition

Adrian Beaumont, The Conversation (September 18, 2021): Coalition gains a point in Newspoll, but Morrison slides back into net negative ratings

The Economist (September 18, 2021): Australia’s states are asserting themselves

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

Shaun Cameron, Lowy Institute (September 22, 2021): By land or sea: Thailand
perseveres with the Kra Canal

AFP (September 19, 2021): Protesters call to ‘kick out’ Thai PM on coup anniversary: Demonstrators mark the 15th anniversary of coup d’etat that overthrew then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

Bangladesh Partial Local Elections: September 2021

Some of Bangladesh’s towns held local elections this month. Bangladesh Parliamentary Elections: December 30, 201

Bangladesh last 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

Partha Pratim Bhattacharjee, Daily Star Bangladesh (September 23, 2021): Local Body Polls: Uncontested wins, rebels bug AL

Chris Thompson, Foreign Brief (September 20, 2021): Voting in Bangladesh’s local elections to open

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.

Radio New Zealand (September 16, 2021): Samoa elections: Bitter rivals embrace as MPs finally sworn in

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)

Taiwan Local Elections: November 2022 (due)

India, State Elections in Gujarat: December 2022 (due)

21votes does not necessarily agree with all of the opinions expressed in the linked articles; rather, our goal is to curate a wide range of voices. Furthermore, none of the individuals or organizations referenced have reviewed 21votes’ content. That is to say, their inclusion should not be taken to imply that they endorse us in any way. More on our approach here.

Share This