Asia This Week: October 29, 2021

October 29, 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.

The Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Martin Falbisoner (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.

The Economist (October 28, 2021): How the LDP dominates Japan’s politics

Eric Johnston, Japan Times (October 27, 2021): Opposition unity in Japan general election proving easier said than done

Reuters (October 19, 2021): Japan kicks off election campaign as support for the ruling LDP dips

Mari Yamaguchi, AP (October 19, 2021): Japan’s PM interrupts campaign as N Korea test-fires missile

Kyodo News (October 19, 2021): A guide to Japan’s upcoming House of Representatives election

Mari Yamaguchi, AP (October 18, 2021): Japan leader calls for greater military capability, spending

Malaysia, Melaka State Snap Elections: November 20, 2021

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. Melaka will hold snap elections on November 20. In addition, Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, is due to hold state elections very shortly after the federal government lifts the COVID-19 state of emergency. In Malaysia’s federal system, state governments have significant powers to make laws for their own states, and the Borneo states of Sarawak and Sabah have even more power than the 11 peninsular Malaysian states.

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

AP (October 29, 2021): Malaysia plans record budget to bolster economic recovery

Malay Mail (October 28, 2021): Political parties gear up for tech-based election campaign in Melaka

Alifah Zainuddin, The Diplomat (October 27, 2021): Malaysia Plans to Avoid Another COVID-19 Disaster During State Polls

Hazlin Hassan, Straits Times (October 27, 2021): Ex-Malaysian PM Najib poised for comeback despite 1MDB conviction

The Star/Asia News Network (October 24, 2021): Melaka polls to see clash between parties to win rural, Malay votes: Analysts

Joseph Kaos Jr, The Star Malaysia (October 24, 2021): Melaka Polls: No political gatherings from Oct 25 to Nov 27 due to Covid-19 concerns, says KJ

Ran Anand, Straits Times (October 20, 2021): Malaysia to hold state polls for Melaka on Nov 20

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

Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, The Diplomat (October 28, 2021): Thailand’s Escalating Crackdown on Dissent

Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul, AP (October 28, 2021): Party close to Thai ex-PM Thaksin names his daughter adviser

Randy Thanthong-Knight, Bloomberg (October 26, 2021): Thai Rulers Move to Disband Thaksin-Linked Party as Vote Nears

New Caledonia Independence Referendum: December 12, 2021

Denise Fisher, The Strategist (October 22, 2021): New Caledonian independence leaders challenge France over final referendum date

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.

AFP (October 30, 2021): Why tensions are rising over Taiwan: China has dramatically ramped up military activities in recent years, with a record number of planes intruding near the island in early October.

Tomasz Koper, Radio Taiwan International (October 26, 2021): VIDEO: Upcoming referendum will be a fierce political contest

Brian Hioe, The Diplomat (October 25, 2021): Chen Po-wei Is the Latest Victim of Taiwan’s ‘Recall Revenge’: Another progressive young politician was recalled, part of a broader wave of recalls backed by the opposition KMT.

Channel News Asia (October 22, 2021): Voters to vote in recall election of pro-independence lawmaker

Natalie Liu, Voice of America (October 22, 2021): US Senator Warns Beijing: Do Not Take Taiwan for Next Hong Kong

Helen Davidson, The Guardian (October 22, 2021): Fearful but defiant: life goes on in Taiwan despite China’s threats

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

AP (October 28, 2021): Hong Kong official: Legislature smoother without opposition

Shum Yin Hang, Radio Free Asia (October 27, 2021): Hong Kong bans movies deemed ‘subversive’ or ‘romanticizing’ protests

Austin Ramzy, New York Times (October 28, 2021): As Hong Kong’s Civil Society Buckles, One Group Tries to Hold On

Selina Cheng, Hong Kong Free Press (October 21, 2021): 16 more Hong Kong democratically-elected district councillors ousted over loyalty oaths, as democrats left in the minority: Only around 16 percent of the pro-democracy district councillors elected in 2019 are left in office. Among those unseated on Thursday – without explanation – was Roy Kwong.

The Standard Hong Kong (October 20, 2021): Over 40 percent of Hong Kongers want to emigrate: survey

Rhoda Kwan, Hong Kong Free Press (October 19, 2021): Hong Kong appoints defeated pro-Beijing district councillor as no.2 official on constitutional and mainland affairs

Ben Doherty and Helen Davidson, The Guardian (October 19, 2021): Huang Xiangmo: alleged agent of Chinese influence exiled from Australia now on Hong Kong electoral body

Alice Wu, South China Morning Post (October 18, 2021): Why Beijing’s grass-roots outreach is a wake-up call for Hong Kong’s patriots

Bhutan Local Elections: December 22, 2021

Bhutan is due to hold several sets of local elections in late 2021. Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy that has been implementing democratic reforms over the past decade.

On the geopolitical front, Bhutan recently inked a deal with China over its long-standing border dispute (following increased Chinese aggression, including the building of Chinese villages inside Bhutan’s territory).

MB Subba, Kuensel (October 29, 2021): Bhutan to go to polls for LG elections on December 22

Manoj Joshi, Observer Research Foundation (October 22, 2021): The China-Bhutan border deal should worry India

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.

Sanjeev Miglani, Reuters (October 27, 2021): U.S. Senators Urge Biden to Avoid India Sanctions Over Russian Deal

The Diplomat (October 27, 2021): India’s Crackdown on Kashmir’s Journalists

Emily Schmall, Hari Kumar and Mujib Mashal, New York Times (October 22, 2021): Violence Strikes, and India’s Farmers Want You to See It A year on, protesters against the country’s agricultural laws are taking an increasingly confrontational approach with the country’s leaders.

Sudha Ramachandran, The Diplomat (October 22, 2021): India’s Congress Party Woos Women Voters in Uttar Pradesh: Will the strategy work in a state that is notorious for its patriarchy and misogyny?

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.

Jeong Ho-Lee, Bloomberg (October 28, 2021): South Korea’s Moon and Ex-Rival Mend Fences Ahead of Election

Dasl Yoon, Wall Street Journal (October 26, 2021): Roh Tae-woo, Leader During South Korea’s Transition to Democracy, Dies

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 (October 21, 2021): Philippines’ Duterte Says He Takes Full Responsibility for Drugs War

Ditas B Lopez and Cecilia Yap, Bloomberg (October 21, 2021): Oil Tax Targeted in Philippine Presidential Race as Prices Surge

Andrew Yeo and Enrico Gloria, Washington Post (October 21, 2021): In a first, the Nobel Peace Prize went to a Filipina. Her government isn’t happy.

Chris Barrett, Syndey Morning Herald (October 18, 2021): ‘Everything is riding on this’: Nobel winner Maria Ressa and the fight for democracy in the Philippines

CNN Philippines (October 17, 2021): Bongbong-Bong Go tandem for 2022 elections possible – Imee

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 (October 26, 2021): Cambodia passes law barring ‘dual citizens’ from top political jobs: The law appears aimed at opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who holds both Cambodian and French citizenship.

Phorn Bopha, Al Jazeera (October 23, 2021): Cambodia’s democratic dream in shreds 30 years after Paris accord

Sebastian Strangio, The Diplomat (October 15, 2021): Cambodian PM Orders Authorities to Hunt Down Exiled ‘Extremist’ Poet: The move is the latest in a string of almost comically excessive attempts to stamp out any and all sources of political opposition.

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

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

Michael Kabuni, Russel Kitau, Minetta Kakarere, Devpolicyblog (October 25, 2021): PNG’s 2022 elections: parties, policies and women candidates

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

Anil Sigdel, East Asia Forum (October 22, 2021): Personalities split Nepal’s communist parties

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

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.

Voice of America (October 18, 2021): China Seen Tightening Grip on Macao

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.

Kerryn Baker, Asia and the Pacific Policy Society (October 22, 2021): Gender quotas and the 2021 Samoan constitutional crisis

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

Malaysia, Melaka State Snap Elections: November 20, 2021

New Caledonia Independence Referendum: December 12, 2021

Taiwan Referendum: December 18, 2021

Hong Kong Legislative Council Elections: December 19, 2021

Bhutan Local Elections: December 22, 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)

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