Asia

November 12, 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.

Fishing boats in Bangladesh. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Mohammad Mahmudur Rahman (CC BY 3.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

Bangladesh Partial Local Elections: November 11 and 28, 2021

Some of Bangladesh’s towns hold local elections in November 2021, which the opposition is boycotting. 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

Julhas Alam, AP (November 10, 2021): 7 killed as Bangladesh votes for rural councils amid boycott

Julhas Alam, AP (November 9, 2021): Awami League Set to Win Vote Boycotted by Rivals: This will enable Bangladesh’s ruling party to consolidate its position ahead of the next general elections slated for 2023.

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 (or Malacca – located on the Strait of Malacca, a key strategic choke point) 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

Hazlin Hassan, Straits Times (November 12, 2021): Melaka poll a test for Anwar and a signal of Malay voter intentions

Alifah Zainuddin, The Diplomat (November 10, 2021): ‘Battle Royale’ Begins for Melaka State Voters: The outcomes of the state polls will allow political parties to chart a clearer course ahead of the 15th General Election, including forming new alliances.

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

Natalie Wong, South China Morning Press (November 13, 2021): Who wants to be a Hong Kong lawmaker? Can they win over opposition voters? A look at aspiring candidates, from moderates to reformists to staunch loyalists

Oliver Young, China Digital Times (November 10, 2021): Three People Arrested for Sharing Online Appeal to Cast Blank Ballots in Hong Kong Elections

Rhoda Kwan, Hong Kong Free Press (November 9, 2021): ‘Fight for hope:’ democrat enters legislative race along with other non-establishment candidates

Kelly Ho, Hong Kong Free Press (November 8, 2021): Calls to cast invalid votes or boycott election may breach national security law, Hong Kong security chief warns

Matthew Brooker, Bloomberg (November 7, 2021): Hong Kong’s Stage-Managed Election Is Fooling Nobody: The trappings of democracy are important to an authoritarian system. Getting people to go to the polls may be the biggest challenge.

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. Although there have been some concerns about Modi’s increasing authoritarianism, India remains an important partner in combatting China’s attempts to spread its political and economic influence around the world.

Jyotsna Singh and Benjamin Parkin, Financial Times (November 9, 2021): Fertiliser shortage heaps pressure on Modi government ahead of state elections

Ashish Misra, India Today (November 5, 2021): UP Assembly elections: The emerging shape of an opposition alliance

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.

AP (November 12, 2021): S. Korean candidate takes tough line on North’s nuclear program: Yoon Suk Yeol stressed the need to boost cooperation with Washington and Japan to make up for South Korea’s relative lack of ability to monitor North Korea’s advancing nuclear program.

Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith, Reuters (November 10, 2021): China looms large as S.Korea presidential hopefuls meet U.S. diplomat

Jong Eun Lee, The National Interest (November 9, 2021): South Korea’s Presidential Candidates Offer Contrasting Visions For Foreign Policy

Jon Herskovitz, Bloomberg (November 8, 2021): Conservatives Start South Korea Campaign With Support at Record

Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Washington Post (November 8, 2021): Long before ‘Squid Game,’ South Korea filmmakers elevated the underdog

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

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. His daughter, Sara Duterte, will run for vice president as the running mate of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of the notorious late former dictator.

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, had been discussed as a possible presidential candidate for 1Sambayan, but the alliance ultimately decided to endorse current vice president Leni Robredo.

While the Philippines lacks significant hard power, it is located in a geopolitically crucial area. The country has been a key U.S. ally since World War II, but Duterte has flirted with moves to bring the Philippines closer to China and away from the United States during his tenure in office. However, the country has ultimately kept the defense pact with the U.S. in tact.

Reuters (November 12, 2021): Philippines election: Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter Sara to run for vice-president

Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema, Reuters (November 11, 2021): Philippines president’s daughter joins new party as election deadline nears

Dominic Ziegler, The Economist (November 8, 2021): The Philippine opposition tries to push back against authoritarianism

Inquirer Philippines (November 6, 2021): Bongbong Marcos to face more disqualification cases

Raissa Robles, South China Morning Post (November 5, 2021): Philippine presidential race: why Bongbong’s bid may be sunk by a law his dictator father Ferdinand Marcos Snr made in the 1970s

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 (November 12, 2021): Cambodian authorities release labor union leader in surprise move: Rong Chhun and two activists were set free in what analysts say as a bid to improve Cambodia’s image.

Daphne Psaledakis and David Lawder, Reuters (November 10, 2021): U.S. issues Cambodia corruption advisory, sanctions officials over navy base

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.

William Sospato, Foreign Policy (November 11, 2021): Japan’s Foreign Minister Faces Tough Calls on China: Yoshimasa Hayashi breaks the pattern of factional appointments.

Kana Inagaki, Financial Times (November 10, 2021): Japanese PM Kishida appoints pro-China ally as foreign minister: Yoshimasa Hayashi also expected to deepen US links and adopt more assertive regional role, analysts say

Titli Basu, The Diplomat (November 10, 2021): Previewing India-Japan Ties Under PM Kishida: Back in 2015, then-Foreign Minister Kishida helped shaped the India-Japan Indo-Pacific Vision 2025. Where do ties stand today?

Mari Yamaguchi, AP (November 10, 2021): Kishida reelected Japan’s prime minister in parliamentary vote

Jon Herskovitz, Bloomberg (November 8, 2021): Japan Premier Picks China Critic to Be Human Rights Adviser

Burma General Elections: November 8, 2020

Burma, also called Myanmar, held general elections on November 8, 2020. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide. However, on February 1, the military staged a coup, claiming election fraud (despite a lack of evidence). Protests against the coup continue. The military claims it will hold new elections by 2023. More

Ye Mio Hein, The Irrawaddy (November 11, 2021): Myanmar’s Transition From Electoral Politics to Gun Politics

Voice of America (November 8, 2021): Top US Diplomat Calls for Return to ‘Genuine and Inclusive Democracy’ in Myanmar

Dominic Pino, National Review (November 7, 2021): Why Baptists Care about Burma

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)

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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