Asia This Week: October 1, 2021

October 1, 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.

Persimmons drying in front of Mount Fuji in the fall. Japan holds parliamentary elections this month. Photo credit: Wikimedia/松岡明芳 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

Japan General Elections: October 31, 2021

Japan’s new prime minister, Fumio Kishida, plans to hold general elections on October 31, a bit earlier than the November deadline. These come on the heels of Tokyo Assembly elections, in which Kishida’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.

These elections follow the LDP’s September 29 leadership contest. Former prime minister Yoshihide Suga did not seek re-election. Kishida defeated vaccine czar Kono Taro in a runoff, as well as the hawkish former internal affairs minister Takaichi Sanae and former gender equality minister Noda Seiko.

Isabel Reynolds, Bloomberg (October 3, 2021): Japan’s Kishida Appointed Premier, Set to Call Oct. 31 Election

Kevin Buckland, Reuters (October 1, 2021): Japan’s incoming PM to retain defence, education ministers – report

Purnendra Jain, Lowy Institute (September 30, 2021): Meet Japan’s new PM: Asia’s oldest democracy looks for a steady hand on the tiller in a time of regional flux.

AP (September 29, 2021): Fumio Kishida set to become Japan’s next prime minister after winning ruling party leadership race

Motoko Rich, New York Times (September 29, 2021): Why the Governing Party Election Is the Main Event in Japan: The country has free elections, opposition parties and, lately, public discontent. So why are the Liberal Democrats nearly assured to remain in power?

Tonga General Elections: November 18, 2021

Tonga has scheduled general elections for November 18, 2021. Along with other Pacific states, it is a focal point of geopolitical competition between China and the world’s democracies.

Radio New Zealand (September 30, 2021): New-look Tongan parliament likely

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

Ellen Bork, The Dispatch (September 30, 2021): How the Biden Administration Is Hurting Its Credibility on China

Tony Cheung, South China Morning Post (September 29, 2021): Another 10 Hong Kong district councillors ousted after being grilled on opposition election primary, protest slogans

Primrose Riordan, Financial Times (September 29, 2021): Hong Kong’s ‘loyal critic’ faces tough test as Beijing targets media

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.

Erin Hale, Nikkei Asia (September 28, 2021): Taiwan’s new Kuomintang leader keeps party on China-friendly track: Choice of Eric Chu as chairman puts KMT at odds with a majority on the island

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.

Verity Bowman, The Telegraph (October 3, 2021): South Korean politicians use Netflix sensation ‘Squid Game’ for election race

Kang Seung-woo, Korea Times (September 29, 2021): Will inter-Korean summit affect presidential election? Conservative bloc criticizes gov’t for using inter-Korean detente for political ends

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.

Karen Lema, Reuters (October 2, 2021): Philippines’ Duterte says he is retiring from politics, but not everyone is convinced

Aaron Gavila and Joeal Calupitan, AP (October 1, 2021): Former pugilist, future president? Pacquiao files candidacy in Philippine race

AFP (September 30, 2021):

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.

Matthew Doran, ABC News Australia (September 28, 2021): Here are all the dates, likely and unlikely, for the next Australian federal election

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.

Andrew Nachemson, The Diplomat (October 1, 2021): Peace vs. Democracy in Cambodia

Radio Free Asia (September 29, 2021): US Lawmakers Pass Legislation Targeting Political Repression in Cambodia

Aun Chhengpor, Voice of America Cambodia (September 29, 2021): As Constitution Turns 28, Observers Says Top Law Fragile Under One-Party Rule

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

Zachary Abuza, The Diplomat (September 27, 2021): Thailand’s Constitutional Dictatorship Weathers the Storm

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.

Amalyah Hart and Joshua Mcdonald, The Diplomat (October 1, 2021): Samoa: Fiame’s Uphill Climb

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Japan Parliamentary Elections: October 31, 2021

Tonga General Elections: November 18, 2021

New Caledonia Independence Referendum: December 12, 2021

Taiwan Referendum: December 18, 2021

Hong Kong Legislative Council Elections: December 19, 2021

Timor-Leste Municipal Elections: 2021 (due)

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.

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