Asia This Week: November 26, 2021

November 26, 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.

Nuku island, Kapa, Vava’u, Tonga. Tonga held elections on November 28. Photo credit: Wikimedia/David Broad (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

Arafatul Islam, DW (November 26, 2021): Bangladesh’s BNP opposition party in dire straits as leader’s health deteriorates

Faisal Mahmud, Al Jazeera (November 24, 2021): Protests in Bangladesh after ex-PM Zia’s health deteriorates: Opposition supporters stage protests demanding Khaleda Zia be allowed to travel abroad for treatment.

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 17, 2021): Thai Parliament Rejects Another Attempt At Democratic Reforms

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 Post (November 23, 2021): Hong Kong elections: more than half of voters unable to name candidates for coming Legco poll, survey shows

AP (November 22, 2021): Hong Kong to allow residents of mainland to vote in election

Kelly Ho, Hong Kong Free Press (November 19, 2021): In Pictures: Hong Kong ‘extremists’ may target elections and festivals, anti-terror chief claims during drill

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).

Jianli Yang, The Diplomat (November 18, 2021): Bhutan-China Border Negotiations in Context: What is behind the latest announcement about resumed border talks between Bhutan and China?

Kuensel (November 13, 2021): More women vying for LG posts this election despite challenges

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.

Amy Kazmin, Financial Times (November 21, 2021): Modi’s U-turn on farming laws reflects anxiety over looming elections: Indian PM’s rare decision to back down on a landmark policy follows year-long protests

Soutik Biswas, BBC (November 19, 2021): Farm laws: Why India PM Narendra Modi rolled back vexed reforms

Manveena Suri, VedikManveena Suri, Vedika Sud, Arpit Goel and Rhea Mogul, CNN (November 19, 2021): India’s Prime Minister Modi to repeal controversial farm laws following more than a year of protests

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.

Hyung-Jin Kim, AP (November 23, 2021): Former South Korean Military Dictator Chun Doo-hwan Dies at 90

Mitch Shin, The Diplomat (November 18, 2021): What Will South Korea’s Presidential Election Mean for Japan Ties?

AP (November 12, 2021): S. Korean candidate takes tough line on North’s nuclear program

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.

AP (November 18, 2021): Philippines tells China to ‘back off’ after South China Sea clash

By Rebecca Wright, Ivan Watson and Jinky Jorgio, CNN (November 16, 2021): Manny Pacquiao says he’ll jail former allies if he wins Philippine presidency

Sui-Lee Wee, New York Times (November 15, 2021): In Latest Twist in Philippine Politics, President to Run for Senate Rodrigo Duterte entered the race days after his daughter announced her bid for vice president. He had previously said he would leave politics at the end of his term.

Jim Gomez, AP (November 13, 2021): Duterte’s daughter to run for VP with ex-dictator’s son

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.

David Hutt, The Diplomat (November 19, 2021): Will Domestic Politics Upend Cambodia’s ASEAN Chairmanship? The deteriorating rights situation in Cambodia will be a major distraction from ASEAN’s agenda.

Human Rights Watch (November 16, 2021): Cambodia: Political Prisoner Releases Just a Start

Radio Free Asia (November 15, 2021): Cambodian court orders sale of former opposition leader’s property

Australia Parliamentary Elections: May 2022 (due – snap elections possible)

Australia’s federal parliamentary elections are due by 2022, but snap elections could happen. Meanwhile, several states hold elections in 2021. In the last general elections, in 2019, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party won in a surprise result, after trailing in pre-election polls.

Tensions with China are rising as Australia’s federal government has cancelled several Belt and Road deals. More

David Crowe and Anthony Galloway, Sydney Morning Herald (November 15, 2021): ‘I’m the underdog’: Morrison steps up campaign, fights calls on climate

Reuters (November 14, 2021): Support for Australian PM Hits 18-Month Low Just Months Out From Election – Poll

Indonesia Presidential and Legislative Elections: April 2024 (due)

Indonesia is due to hold presidential and legislative elections in April 2024. In Indonesia’s April 2019 elections – the biggest single day of voting in the history of the world – incumbent Joko Widodo (Jokowi), widely seen as a reformer, defeated challenger Prabowo Subianto for the presidency. Prabowo initially refused to accept the results, and rioting subsequently ensued. Prabowo ultimately did accept the results, but tensions remain, particularly regarding the role of religion in politicsMore

Ruth Pollard, Bloomberg (November 22, 2021): New Culture Wars Worsen Political Slide in Indonesia: President Joko Widodo simply can’t escape responsibility for democratic decline in the world’s most-populous Muslim-majority country. 

Malaysia, Early General Elections: To be called, following 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) held snap elections on November 20, which delivered a victory for the ruling coalition. 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

Vincent Tan, Channel News Asia (November 22, 2021): What the Melaka state election result augurs for Malaysia’s political coalitions

Rozanna Latiff, Reuters (November 20, 2021): Malaysia PM’s coalition wins crucial state vote ahead of national polls

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

Tonga General Elections: November 18, 2021

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

Kalafi Moala, Policy Forum (November 26, 2021): Independents the winners in Tongan election

‘Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, DevPolicy Blog (November 19, 2021): No women elected in Tonga: time to change the story

Catherine Graue, Liam Fox and Edwina Seselja, ABC News Australia (November 17, 2021): Tongan voters focused on worsening drug crisis and corruption concerns as nation heads to the ballot box today

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

The Irrawaddy (November 16, 2021): Myanmar Junta’s Election Commission Charges Suu Kyi and Win Myint With Fraud

Jon Emont and Feliz Solomon, Wall Street Journal (November 15, 2021): U.S. Journalist Danny Fenster Released by Myanmar: American sentenced last week to 11 years in prison is expected to be home soon

Solomon Islands General Elections: April 3, 2019

The Solomon Islands held elections on April 3, 2019. Manasseh Sogavare, who had previously served several tumultuous terms at different points, was elected prime minister again, ousting Rick Houenipwela, who himself had become prime minister when Sogavare was ousted in a no-confidence motion in 2017. Riots broke out after the elections. Subsequently, the Solomon Islands switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, a very controversial decision.

Byron Kaye and Colin Packham, Reuters (November 25, 2021): Australia to deploy police, military to Solomon Islands as protests spread

Yan Zhuang, New York Times (November 25, 2021): Protests Rock Solomon Islands: Here’s What’s Behind the Unrest – Protesters tried to storm the prime minister’s residence, and he blamed the central government’s 2019 decision to switch allegiances to Beijing from Taipei for the violence.

Reuters (November 24, 2021): Solomon Islands police deploy tear gas as protesters burn buildings, loot stores

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.

Share This