Asia This Week: October 15, 2021

October 15, 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.

Lake Pinatubo in the Philippines, which holds presidential elections next year. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Janice Bocateja (public domain)

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.

Emiko Josuka, CNN (October 14, 2021): Japan’s Prime Minister dissolves Parliament ahead of October 31 general election

Kyodo News (October 11, 2021): In election platform, Japan’s main opposition force vows to tax the rich

Yoshifumi Takemoto and Tetsushi Kajimoto, Reuters (October 8, 2021): Japan LDP election platform draft does not mention financial tax

Bangladesh Partial Local Elections: November 11 and 28, 2021

Some of Bangladesh’s towns held local elections in November 2021.

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

Dhaka Tribune (October 14, 2021): 3rd phase elections to 1,700 union parishads, 10 municipalities on Nov 28

Thailand Tambon Administrative Organization (TAO) Elections: November 28, 2021

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. Next on the schedule: Tambon (township) Administrative Organization (TAO) elections on November 28. 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

Bangkok Post (October 11, 2021): Candidate applications for TAO elections open

Neill Fronde, The Thaiger (October 10, 2021): Political parties begin to name their nominees for prime minister

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.

Editorial Board, Dallas Morning News (October 13, 2021): Beijing won’t back off on Taiwan and neither should the democratic world

BBC (October 10, 2021): China-Taiwan tensions: We will not bow to Beijing pressure, says leader

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

Jeffie Lam, South China Morning Pot (October 15, 2021): Hong Kong elections: only opposition party to allow members to run for Legislative Council ‘unlikely to make an impact’ even with candidates

AFP/JIJI (October 12, 2021): Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy party shuns ‘patriot only’ election

Jillian Kay Melchior, Wall Street Journal (October 12, 2021): Hong Kong Is Erasing the Tiananmen Square Massacre: A university demands the removal of a sculpture honoring the victims of June 4, 1989.

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.

Stratfor (October 13, 2021): The Importance of India’s 2022 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.

James Park (October 14, 2021): Have South Korean Conservatives Made a Full Comeback?: The People Power Party’s makeover has come a long way, but there are still some hurdles to overcome to compete with the progressives.

Josh Smith and Sangmi Cha, Reuters (October 10, 2021): S.Korea’s Lee wins ruling party primary in presidential race overshadowed by scandal

The Independent (October 10, 2021): South Korea’s ruling party nominates maverick politician in election race: Ruling liberal party has nominated politician known for outspoken views who is likely to be the race’s front-runner

Anthony Rinna, East Asia Forum (October 8, 2021): South Korea’s growing partisanship over relations with the United States

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.

Tom Smith, The Conversation (October 14, 2021): Philippines: ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, son of reviled dictator Ferdinand, runs in what could be a race of two dynasties in 2022 election

Cleve V. Arguelles, The Conversation (October 13, 2021): The Philippines is set for a fiery election, even without any Dutertes (at least for now)

Chad de Guzman, Time (October 13, 2021): The Philippine Elections Will Be a Test of Rodrigo Duterte’s Legacy

CBC News (October 12, 2021): ‘Death by a thousand cuts:’ Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa reflects on democracy in the Philippines

Sui-Lee Wee, New York Times (October 9, 2021): Philippines’ Nobel Prize Newsroom Is Overjoyed but Under Siege

Rappler (October 9, 2021): LIST: Duterte officials running for national posts in 2022 elections: Five Duterte Cabinet members are running for senator in the 2022 polls

Ben Westcott and Jinky Jorgio, CNN (October 9, 2021): A dictator’s son. A former actor. A champion boxer. Inside the manic race to replace Duterte as the Philippines’ leader

Reuters (October 8, 2021): Philippines’ registration for president closes without Duterte’s daughter

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.

Shaun Turton, Nikkei Asia (October 15, 2021): Cambodia’s PM wants law change to shut door on opponents

Reuters (October 13, 2021): U.S. calls Cambodia opaque over Chinese activity at navy base

Radio Free Asia (October 12, 2021): Cambodia’s Cabinet Approves Draft Law For Charter Change Aimed at Opposition Leader

China Village Elections

China has been holding village elections in some places since 1978, when Deng Xiaoping began introducing reforms. Even though the authoritarian regime has increased its repression and shrunk the political space, village elections continue – for now.

Han Wang, South China Morning Post (October 13, 2021): Why villages and rural governments are being erased across China

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

Tibet Government-in-Exile Presidential Election: January 3 and April 11, 2021

Tibetans in exile around the world cast their ballots for Sikyong, the president of the Central Tibetan Administration (the formal name of the government-in-exile), which is headquartered in Dharamshala, India. The first round, with eight candidates, was in January, alongside legislative elections. In the second round, former speaker of the Tibetan government-in-exile Penpa Tsering defeated Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang, the Dalai Lama’s representative to North America.

Tibet itself is currently ruled by China and is among the least free countries in the world. Moreover, China has been ramping up repression in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. However, Tibetans have been developing a democratic system in exile.

Radio Free Asia (October 13, 2021): Tibet’s Exile Parliament Names Three Women to Cabinet Posts

China’s Influence Efforts

Deep Pal, Carnegie Endowment (October 13, 2021): China’s Influence in South Asia: Vulnerabilities and Resilience in Four Countries

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Japan Parliamentary Elections: October 31, 2021

Bangladesh Partial Local Elections: November 11 and 28, 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

Malaysia, Melaka State Snap Elections: By December 2021 (due – delays possible)

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)

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