Asia This Week: January 7, 2022

January 7, 2022

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 Shantadurga Temple in Goa, India. Goa is among the states holding elections in 2022. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Nkodikal (CC BY 3.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

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.

India’s next general elections are due by May 2024.

Rifat Fareed, Al Jazeera (January 6, 2022): Anxiety in Kashmir as India panel proposes to redraw election map: Controversial proposal to raise assembly seats in Jammu causes anger among Muslims, who form the majority in the disputed region.

Manoj C G, Indian Express (December 31, 2021): Explained: Elections in key states in year of reckoning for BJP and Opposition

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.

Ayumi Davis, Newsweek (January 6, 2022): South Korean Presidential Candidate Gets Bald Vote By Touting Hair-Loss Treatment Coverage

S. Nathan Park, Foreign Policy (January 6, 2022): Conservatives Are Slumping in South Korea’s Tumultuous Presidential Race: Civil war inside the right has liberals surging in the polls.

Danny Park and Ayumi Fujimoto, Forkast (January 5, 2022): Crypto is presidential election campaign issue for South Korea

Yosuke Onchi, Nikkei Asia (December 31, 2021): Disillusioned younger voters hold key to South Korea presidential race: Both leading candidates struggle to win over independents in tight campaign

Philippines General Elections (Presidential, Legislative, and Local): May 9, 2022

Philippines holds general elections 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 (January 4, 2022): Philippines’ Duterte says will never apologise for drug war deaths

Marielle Descalsota, South China Morning Post (January 2, 2022): Philippine election: why are overseas Filipinos such big fans of Bongbong Marcos Jnr?

Mong Palatino, The Diplomat (December 30, 2021): The Philippines in 2021: Duterte’s Flip-Flops and Women Holding the Line

Yen Nee Lee, CNBC (December 26, 2021): Philippine President Duterte’s China pivot hasn’t reduced tensions in the South China Sea

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

Steve McMorran, AP (January 7, 2022): Some say politics at play in Djokovic detention in Australia

Gerard Henderson, The Australian (December 31, 2021): Election 2022: ‘Mood’ will decide between two paths to power

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 have had some element of competition, the 2018 elections – 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.

Trea Lavery, Lowell Sun (January 7, 2022): Lowell senator files resolution in support of free and fair elections in Cambodia: Cambodian Lowellians testify in support of resolution

UN News (January 5, 2022): Cambodia: Arrests of strikers may be breach of human rights law

Luke Hunt, The Diplomat (January 4, 2021): Cambodia’s Hun Sen Moves Ahead on Shoring Up Son’s Leadership Prospects: The leader tipped his grandson to serve as prime minister in the 2030s.

Jon Emont, Wall Street Journal (December 29, 2021): In Southeast Asia, Politics Are Increasingly a Family Affair: Political dynasties are rising to power and broadening their reach in the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia

Japan House of Councillors Elections: July 25, 2022 (half of upper house at stake)

Japan holds elections for half of the House of Councillors, the upper house of the bicameral parliament, on July 25, 2022. These follow general elections that took placeon 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.

The general elections followed 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.

Rhiannon Hoyle and Alastair Gale, Wall Street Journal (January 5, 2022): As China Tensions Smoulder, Japan and Australia Move to Sign Defense Treaty: Australia-Japan pact will allow troops to freely enter each other’s countries for exercises without having to negotiate terms each time

Isabel Reynolds, Bloomberg (January 4, 2022): Japan’s Kishida Vows Tight Borders, Faster Boosters for Elderly

Thailand Bangkok Gubernatorial Election: Mid-2022 (proposed), followed by General Elections: By March 23, 2023 (earlier elections possible)

Thailand is due to hold general elections by March 23, 2023, but early elections are possible. In addition, various types of local elections are taking place at various times. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has indicated that the long-delayed Bangkok gubernatorial election will take place in mid-2022.

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. 

John Reed, Financial Times (January 6, 2022): The skimpy crop-tops that are infuriating Thai authorities: Prosecutors crack down on activists sporting midriff-baring garments beloved by the king

Marwaan Macan-Makar, Nikkei Asia (December 30, 2021): Bangkok governor election gives Prayuth headache: PM yet to find a candidate for poll seen as voter gauge ahead of key 2022 vote

Taiwan Local Elections: November 2022 (due)

Taiwan, a robust democracy, is due to hold local elections 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.

Sheryn Lee, East Asia Forum (January 7, 2022): Global and domestic challenges clash in Taiwan

Jacques deLisle, Foreign Policy Research Institute (January 6, 2022): A Tale of Two Elections: Lessons from the Very Different Trajectories of Democracy in Taiwan and Hong Kong in December 2021

Ryan Hass, Brookings Institute (December 27, 2021): Steadying Taiwan for a storm on the horizon

Burma Parliamentary Elections: By August 2023 (proposed – tentative, post-coup)

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. 

Jonathan Head, BBC (January 7, 2021): Myanmar coup: The doctors and nurses defying the military

Elaine Kurtenbach, AP (January 7, 2022): Anger as Cambodia’s Hun Sen meets Myanmar military leader

Olivia Enos, Forbes (December 28, 2021): Why The U.S. Should Hold The Burmese Military Accountable For Atrocities

The Irrawaddy (December 27, 2021): Desmond Tutu’s Thoughts on Myanmar’s Democracy Struggle From 2010

Malaysia, Early General Elections: To be called, following Melaka State Snap Elections: November 20, 2021 and Sarawak State Elections: December 18, 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

William Case, East Asia Forum (January 7, 2022): UMNO strikes back after Malaysia’s year of political melee

Al Jazeera (December 28, 2021): ‘Where’s the help?’: Malaysia PM under fire after deadly floods

AFP (December 25, 2021): Malaysian Floods Death Toll Rises to 46

Maldives Presidential Election: September 2023 (due)

Maldives is due to hold a presidential election in September 2023. The idyllic archipelago was under a brutal dictatorship for decades, but began a remarkable transition to democracy in 2008. The road to democracy has been somewhat rocky, but Maldivian democrats persevere.

The country, in the strategically-important Indian Ocean, has been part of geopolitical competition between India and the democratic world on the one hand and China on the other hand. 

Seema Guha, Outlook India (December 28, 2021): Why ‘India Out’ Campaign Led By Pro-China Yameen Is Gaining Ground In Maldives: India-China compete for relevance in the strategically important Indian Ocean Island nation. The division will sharpen in the run-up to the Presidential elections in 2023.

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

Bangladesh Partial Local Elections: January 5, 2022 and Parliamentary Elections: By December 2023

Some of Bangladesh’s towns hold local elections in the coming months. 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. 

Andalou Agency (January 7, 2022): Bangladesh local elections turn deadly

Regional Analysis

Niha Dagia, The Diplomat (January 5, 2022): 2021 Was a Bad Year for Democracy in South Asia

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

Tim Hamlett, Hong Kong Free Press (January 3, 2022): Hong Kong election: Rewriting history after the 2021 ‘patriots’ poll

Voice of America (January 3, 2022): Hong Kong Legislature Welcomes New Pro-China Members

AP (December 29, 2021): Hong Kong pro-democracy news site closes after raid, arrests

Zen Soo and Huizhong Wu, AP (December 29, 2021): How democracy was dismantled in Hong Kong in 2021

Wayne Chang, Nectar Gan, Jadyn Sham and Teele Rebane, CNN Business (December 29, 2021): Another Hong Kong pro-democracy news outlet shuts down after a police raid and arrests

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal (December 29, 2021): No One Is Safe in Hong Kong: Authorities extend their assault on anyone who dissents from the Communist Party line.

AP (December 24, 2021): Renowned Tiananmen massacre monument removed in Hong Kong

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.

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal (December 29, 2021): Beijing Courts the Solomon Islands: Turning from the West, the Pacific state accepts Chinese police support.

Reuters (December 24, 2021): Solomon Islands says China to send police advisers after riots

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

Nepal National Assembly Elections: January 26, 2022 (voting for 1/3 of upper house)

India, State Elections in Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand: February/March 2022 (due)

South Korea Presidential Election: March 9, 2022

Australia, South Australia State Election: March 19, 2022

Timor-Leste Presidential Election: March 2022 (due)

Nepal Provincial Elections: April or May 2022 (due)

Nepal General Elections: Spring 2022 (expected – due by March 2023, but early elections likely)

Philippines Presidential, Legislative, and Local Elections: May 9, 2022

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

Papua New Guinea Parliamentary and Local Elections: June 25-July 8, 2022

Cambodia Local Elections: June 5, 2022

Japan House of Councillors Elections: July 25, 2022 (half of upper house at stake)

Vanuatu Presidential Election: July 2022 (due – indirect election, largely ceremonial role)

Australia, Tasmania State Elections: By Mid-2022

Malaysia Snap Elections: August 2022 or later (expected)

Nauru Parliamentary Elections: August 2022 (due)

New Zealand Local Elections: October 2022 (due)

Fiji Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due)

Taiwan Local Elections: November 2022 (due)

India, State Elections in Himachal Pradesh: November 2022 (due)

Australia, South Australia Local Elections; November 11, 2022

Australia, Victoria State Elections: November 26, 2022

India, State Elections in Gujarat: December 2022 (due)

India, State Elections in Tripura, Meghalaya, and Nagaland: February 2023 (due)

Thailand General Elections: By March 23, 2023 (earlier elections possible)

Australia, New South Wales State Elections: March 25, 2023

Micronesia Parliamentary Elections: March 2023

Malaysia State Elections: May 2023 (due)

India, State Elections in Karnataka: May 2023 (due)

Cambodia Parliamentary Elections: July 30, 2023 (due)

Burma Parliamentary Elections: By August 2023 (proposed – tentative, post-coup)

Maldives Presidential Election: September 2023 (due)

Tuvalu General Elections: September 2023 (due)

Singapore Presidential Election: September 2023 (expected – largely ceremonial role)

New Zealand General Elections: October 2023 (expected – due by January 2024)

Bhutan Parliamentary Elections: October 2023 (due)

India, State Elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Mizoram: November 2023 (due)

Bangladesh Parliamentary Elections: December 2023 (due)

India, State Elections in Rajasthan and Telangana: December 2023 (due)

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