Asia This Week: November 5, 2021

November 5, 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 Mangetsu-ji temple on Lake Biwa, Japan. Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party won the October 31 elections. Photo credit: Wikimedia/663highland (CC BY 2.5)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

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 next polls are due in December 2022 or early 2023. The Awami League (AL) has been in power since 2009 and is becoming increasingly authoritarian.

On the geopolitical front, Bangladesh has risen in importance in recent years in the midst of high economic growth. More

Shuprova Tasneem, Daily Star Bangladesh (November 5, 2021): UP election violence doesn’t bode well for sound local governance

Ahammad Foyez, New Age (November 3, 2021): AL, BNP take hard line over polls-time govt

Md Emroz Khandaker, Dhaka Tribune (October 29, 2021): Five shot in Pabna clash between rival Awami League groups ahead of UP polls

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

Straits Times (November 6, 2021): Multi-way fights expected in all 28 seats in Melaka state polls

Anisah Shukry, Bloomberg (October 29, 2021): Malaysia Unveils Biggest Budget to Spur Post-Covid Recovery

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.

Sarah Wu and Yimou Lee, Reuters (November 3, 2021): Taiwan welcomes first official European Parliament delegation

Brian Hioe, The Diplomat (November 3, 2021): The Politics of Taiwan’s Environmental Policy: Environmental issues have primarily been caught in the contest between the pan-Blue and pan-Green camps, as is the case with many political issues in Taiwan.

Channel News Asia (October 30, 2021): DPP launches campaign, urging ‘no’ vote in 4 referendums

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

Randy Thanthong-Knight, Bloomberg (November 5, 2021): Steel Tycoon Bets ‘Silent Majority’ Can Oust Thai Military Rulers: Win Suteerachai’s new party is the latest to join a crowded electoral field amid speculation of early polls.

Christian Kurzydlowski, The Diplomat (November 2, 2021): Thailand’s Protesters Are Battling to Redefine National Identity

Andrew Nachemson, Al Jazeera (October 31, 2021): Thousands call for reforms to monarchy, government in Bangkok: Thai protesters demand changes, including the repeal of a draconian law that criminalises any criticism of the king.

Marwaan Macan-Markar, Nikkei Asia (October 30, 2021): Thaksin eyes Thai youth vote in pre-election rebranding

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

Zen Soo, AP (November 5, 2021): China lashes out at press freedom survey in Hong Kong

Jonathan White, South China Morning Post (November 3, 2021): NBA’s Enes Kanter tells Beijing ‘Hong Kong will be free’, says Hongkongers ‘are not Chinese’

Takeshi Kihara, Nikkei Asia (October 30, 2021): Hong Kong election set to field no pro-democracy candidates

Tony Cheung and Natalie Wong, South China Morning Post (October 30, 2021): Regina Ip for Hong Kong chief executive? Veteran lawmaker ‘weighing Legco run and third bid for top job’

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.

Mitch Shin, The Diplomat (November 5, 2021): Yoon Seok-youl Wins People Power Party’s Presidential Primary

Hyung-jin Kim, AP (November 5, 2021): Ex-prosecutor in SKorea wins opposition presidential ticket

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.

Raul Dancel, Straits Times (November 4, 2021): Philippines may see another Marcos in charge but race for president still wide open

Jim Gomez, AP (November 3, 2021): Filipino activists want Marcos son out of presidential race

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.

Sam Rainsy, The Diplomat (November 5, 2021): For Free and Fair Elections, Cambodia Must Let Opposition Leaders Return

Radio Free Asia (November 1, 2021): Cambodia sentences autistic minor to eight months in prison: Son of former senior CNRP member convicted of insulting the government and officials.

Kasit Piromya, The Diplomat (November 1, 2021): Cambodia Must Change Course on Democracy to Avoid Myanmar’s International Isolation

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

Japan General Elections: October 31, 2021

Japan held general elections on October 31, a bit earlier than the November deadline. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has dominated Japanese politics since 1955, won another term in office, despite somewhat decreased approval ratings in recent months.

These elections follow the LDP’s September 29 leadership contest. Former prime minister Yoshihide Suga did not seek re-election. Foreign minister Fumio 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.

Tobias Harris, Foreign Policy (November 4, 2021): The Small Pacifist Party That Could Shape Japan’s Future

Bruce Klingner, Wall Street Journal (November 3, 2021): Japan’s Voters Endorse Getting Tough on China

Ju-min Park and Kiyoshi Takenaka, Reuters (November 1, 2021): Dark horse right-wing party emerges as third-largest in Japan lower house

BBC (November 1, 2021): Japan election: PM Fumio Kishida declares victory for ruling LDP

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

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)

Nepal Local Elections: April or May 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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