Asia This Week: January 21, 2022

January 21, 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 historic city hall in Taichung, Taiwan. Taiwan has set local elections for November 26. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Fcuk1203 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

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

Nepal holds elections for a third of the National Assembly, the upper house of the bicameral parliament, on January 26, 2022.

Nepal had planned to hold snap elections for the lower house 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

PTI (January 21, 2022): Nepal PM Sher Bahadur Deuba calls for three-tier elections within a year

Saloni Murarka, WION (January 18, 2022): Nepal’s ruling coalition parties agree to hold local elections in April

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 national parties – and PM Narendra Modi – ahead of national elections in 2024.

First up: Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, will hold elections in seven stages from February 20 to March 7. Punjab will also vote on February 20.

Sumathi Bala, CNBC (January 18, 2022): Political setbacks dent Modi’s strongman image as India heads for crucial state polls

Upmanyu Trivedi, Bloomberg (January 18, 2022): India’s Congress Party Courts Women in Major State Elections

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.

Yonhap (January 21, 2022): Lee, Yoon neck-and-neck at 34% vs. 33%: poll

Timor-Leste Presidential Election: March 19, 2022

Timor-Leste (also called East Timor) will hold a presidential election in March 2022. Since winning independence from Indonesia in a referendum 20 years ago, Timor-Leste has become a democracy rated Free by Freedom House, although some challenges remain.

The current president, Francisco Guterres, called Lú-Olo, was elected in 2017.

CathNews (January 20, 2022): Former priest to run for presidency in Timor-Leste

Ryan Dagur, UCA News (January 17, 2022): Guterres keen to continue as Timor-Leste president: He may be challenged by Jose Ramos-Horta with backing from fellow former leader Xanana Gusmao

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.

AFP (January 22, 2022): Twitter Suspends Hundreds of Accounts Promoting Philippines’ Marcos Jr.

Bea Cupin, Rappler (January 20, 2022): First majority president post-Marcos? Highs and lows ahead of 2022 polls

Walter Lohman, GIS Reports (January 18, 2022): Scenarios for a post-Duterte Philippines

South China Morning Post (January 18, 2022): Wang Yi urges Philippines not to ditch Duterte’s China-friendly policy after election

Al Jazeera (January 17, 2022): Philippines dismisses bid to bar Marcos Jr from presidential race: Lawyers who filed the complaint against Ferdinand Marcos Jr – based on a past tax conviction – say they will appeal.

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. More

Reuters (January 17, 2022): Australia PM’s ratings take a hit months away from election, poll shows

Ben Westcott, Bloomberg (January 16, 2022): Australia’s Opposition Toughens China Stance Ahead of Elections

Deborah Snow, Sydney Morning Herald (January 15, 2022): Nothing off limits: Scott Morrison on his bruising years as Prime Minister

Shaimaa Khalil, BBC (January 14, 2022): Novak Djokovic: The politics behind Australia’s decision

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.

Astrid Noren-Nilsson, East Asia Forum (January 21, 2022): Hun Sen future-proofs Cambodia’s politics

Sebastian Strangio, The Diplomat (January 19, 2022): Cambodia Resumes Treason Trial of Opposition Leader Kem Sokha: The resumption follows a nearly two-year break in proceedings, allegedly due to COVID-19.

AFP (January 19, 2022): Cambodia opposition leader calls for treason charges to be dropped as trial resumes

Taiwan Local Elections: November 26, 2022

Taiwan, a robust democracy, has scheduled “nine-in-one” local elections for November 26, 2022. Voters will elect nine categories of local officials.

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.

Amy Qin and Amy Chang Chien, New York Times (January 19, 2022): ‘We Are Taiwanese’: China’s Growing Menace Hardens Island’s Identity

Lai Yu-chen and William Yen, CNA (January 14, 2022): Taiwan’s ‘nine-in-one elections’ to be held Nov. 26

Thailand 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. 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

Bangkok Post (January 21, 2022): PM rules out early election

Yohei Muramatsu, Nikkei Asia (January 21, 2022): Thai ruling coalition fractures as Prayuth’s party culls ranks: Palang Pracharath ousts secretary-general and allies after by-election losses

Tan Tam Mei, Straits Times (January 18, 2022): By-election wins for Thailand’s Democrats more telling of ruling party’s troubles

Tommy Walker, Voice of America (January 17, 2022): Thailand Facing Crackdown on Freedoms

Malaysia General Elections: By May 2023 (early elections highly likely)

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 national ruling coalition. Subsequently, Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, held snap polls on December 18, delivering yet another win for the government’s allies. 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). 

Malaysia sits on a key strategic chokepoint – the Strait of Malacca – and has sought to engage both the United States and China as it seeks to build its regional influence. More

P Prem Kumar, Nikkei Asia (January 20, 2022): Ismail Sabri faces brewing tensions over Malaysia election timing: Sources say PM under pressure from within own party to dissolve parliament

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. 

AFP (January 22, 2022): Myanmar Junta Sentences Lawmaker From Suu Kyi’s Party to Death

David Hutt, DW (January 18, 2022): Myanmar’s government-in-exile finds friends in the Czech Republic

Mitch McConnell, Lexington Herald Leader (January 18, 2022): Mitch McConnell: I’m continuing my work to strengthen democracy in Burma

The Irrawaddy (January 17, 2022): Suu Kyi to Face 164 Years Imprisonment as Myanmar Junta Adds Five More Charges

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.

Rangoli Mitra, The Diplomat (January 19, 2022): The China-India Cold War in Maldives: Beijing and New Delhi’s jostling for influence in Maldives cannot be separated from the island nation’s domestic political wrangling.

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

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 took place in the context of Beijing’s determinationoa to gut Hong Kong’s democracy. A draconian new national security law has led to the imprisonment of pro-democracy candidates, activists, and journalists.

In the 2021 elections, only candidates deemed “patriotic” were permitted, and as a result, the legislature is now overwhelmingly pro-Beijing. Hong Kong has a history of vigorous debate and democratic politics, so Beijing’s measures are not popular. In that vein, over 89,000 residents left Hong Kong in the year after the national security law took effect. More

Liu Aoran and Raymond Chung, Radio Free Asia (January 21, 2022): European parliament slams Hong Kong rights abuses under draconian security law

Gary Cheung and Natalie Wong, South China Morning Post (January 18, 2022): Hong Kong guessing game: why is Beijing still silent on the chief executive race? And does Carrie Lam have its backing?

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

Timor-Leste Presidential Election: March 19, 2022

Australia, South Australia State Election: March 19, 2022

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

Nauru Parliamentary Elections: August 2022 (due)

New Zealand Local Elections: October 2022 (due)

Fiji Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due)

Taiwan Local Elections: November 26, 2022

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 General Elections and State Elections: May 2023 (due – general elections likely to be called earlier)

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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