Asia This Week: January 28, 2022

January 28, 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 Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan, South Korea. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Mobius6 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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 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.

Rajrishi Singhal, Quartz (January 27, 2022): The Indian government may try to budget its way out of economic funk and poll trouble

Mohit Kumar, Los Angeles Blade (January 25, 2022): Election in India’s most popular state seen as crucial LGBTQ rights test

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.

Robert J. Fouser, Korea Herald (January 28, 2022): [Robert J. Fouser] The 386 Generation’s first president

Victor Cha, Foreign Policy (January 26, 2022): Why South Korea’s Presidential Election Matters to the U.S.: It’s the first in recent memory to feature substantive foreign-policy differences between the ruling and opposition camps.

Gi-Wook Shin, Council on Foreign Relations (January 26, 2022): What Does Korea’s 2022 Presidential Election Mean for its Democracy?

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.

Michael Rose, DevPolicyBlog (January 28, 2022): Timor-Leste in 2021: in troubled times a nation comes of age

Nelson Da Cruz and Kate Lamb, Reuters (January 24, 2022): East Timor’s Ramos-Horta to make new run for presidency

Michael Leach, Lowy Institute (January 24, 2022): Timor-Leste: comebacks and contests ahead of presidential elections

Malaysia, Early Elections in Johor: By March 2022, and Early General Elections: Expected

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. 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.

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, subsequently held state elections very shortly after the federal government lifts the COVID-19 state of emergency, and Sabah, the other Borneo state, also held polls.

Next up: Johor, which borders Singapore, will hold elections by March 2022 after the state’s chief minister dissolved the state legislature (elections were originally due in 2023).

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

Hadi Azmi, South China Morning Post (January 25, 2022): In Johor election, is Malaysia’s Umno seeking stability or a ‘get-out-of-jail’ card for Najib?

Francis E Hutchinson, Channel News Asia (January 26, 2022): Commentary: Elections in Johor – why call for them now amid Omicron wave?

Muzlila Mustafa, Noah Lee, and Nisha David, BenarNews (January 24, 2022): Analysts: Upcoming State Poll in Malaysia May Pave Way for National Elections

Zsombor Peter, Voice of America (January 23, 2022): Malaysia’s Top Anti-Corruption Cop Sues Whistleblower for Defamation

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, who is not actually politically aligned with Duterte (in the Philippines, the president and vice president are elected separately, and Robredo ran in the last election on the Liberal Party ticket in opposition to Duterte).

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.

Andreo Calonzo, Bloomberg (January 28, 2022): How Another Marcos Could Win Power in the Philippines

Sebastian Strangio, The Diplomat (January 28, 2022): Philippines’ Marcos to Pursue Bilateral Deal With Beijing Over South China Sea: The leading candidate’s comments suggest that his victory in May could lead to an extension of President Rodrigo Duterte’s divisive China policy.

Reuters (January 27, 2022): Pacquiao challenges Philippine officials to disclose wealth

Reuters (January 23, 2022): Philippines’ presidential hopefuls tout post-pandemic recovery plans: Frontrunner Marcos declines to take part, citing broadcaster bias

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

Lisa Visentin, Sydney Morning Herald (January 27, 2022): ‘Most complex in history’: Australian Electoral Commission prepares for 2022 federal poll

Kirsty Needham and Eduardo Baptista, Reuters (January 24, 2022): Australia PM Morrison loses control of WeChat Chinese account as election looms

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.

David Hutt, DW (January 24, 2022): Cambodia: EU draws criticism over ‘inaction’ against opposition crackdown

Indonesia Presidential and Legislative Elections: February 14, 2024 and Provincial Elections: November 27, 2024

Indonesia has scheduled presidential and legislative elections for February 14, 2024, followed by provincial elections on November 27, 2024, ending speculation that President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) would seek to delay the election and extend his term.

In Indonesia’s April 2019 elections – the biggest single day of voting in the history of the world – Joko Widodo (Jokowi), widely seen as a reformer, was re-elected, defeating challenger Prabowo Subianto. 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

Bloomberg (January 25, 2022): Indonesia sets date for 2024 election, ending Jokowi speculation

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

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

Nepal held indirect elections for a third of the National Assembly, the upper house of the bicameral parliament, on January 26, 2022, and several other sets of elections could take place within the next year.

Nepal’s politics remain turbulent following the 1996-2006 civil war waged by Maoists. 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

Kathmandu Post (January 29, 2022): Ruling alliance to consult legal experts, again, on local elections

Sujeev Shakya, East Asia Forum (January 28, 2022): Political turmoil does Nepal no favours

Anish Rau Mulmi, Carnegie Endowment (January 27, 2022): Can Nepal’s Latest Citizen-Led Street Protests Shake Things Up?

Shiva Gaunle, Online Khabar (January 26, 2022): Why govt plan to delay local elections puts Nepal democracy in peril

Republica Nepal (January 26, 2022): Ruling alliance secures victory in 18 of 19 seats in National Assembly poll (With list of elected candidates)

Anil Giri, Kathmandu Post (January 23, 2022): Confusion in Nepali Congress over polls, particularly local elections

Shirish B Pradhan, The Print (January 21, 2022): Nepal PM Deuba calls for three-tier elections within a year

Hong Kong Legislative Elections: December 19, 2021

Hong Kong held 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 determination 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 and 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

Cheryl Tung and Jojo Man, Radio Free Asia (January 27, 2022): More than 100 charged under Hong Kong’s national security law amid ongoing crackdown: Elections for the city’s leader are ‘meaningless,’ as the winner will be dictated by Beijing, an analyst says.

Peter Lee, Hong Kong Free Press (January 27, 2022): Elections for Hong Kong’s 18 legislative panels all uncontested, except one

Natalie Wong, Gary Cheung, and Chris Lau, South China Morning Post (January 26, 2022): Hong Kong election: guidelines for chief executive race due out Thursday but kick-off date for nominations still ‘being decided by Beijing’, sources say

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

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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