Asia This Week: February 4, 2022

February 4, 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 Palace of Assembly in Chandigarh, meeting place of Punjab state legislature. The building was designed by the famous architect Le Corbusier. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Chiara (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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. In the last national elections, in 2019, Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won a “thumping victory, securing a second term in office in an increasingly polarized political climate. The main opposition social democratic Congress Party – India’s oldest party – has done well some subsequent state elections.

First up for this round of state polls: Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, will hold elections in seven stages from February 10 to March 7. The BJP currently dominates the state legislature, and the Chief Minister is controversial Hindu monk Yogi Adityanath.

Punjab will also vote on February 20. The state government is currently led by Congress Party.

Gujarat (Modi’s home state) is due to vote later this year, and a handful of other states go to the polls in 2023.

Zeba Siddiqui and Saurabh Sharma, Reuters (February 4, 2022): Activist takes on Hindu heavyweights in India’s biggest state poll

Anuttama Banerji, The Diplomat (February 1, 2022): Why Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut Is a Magnet for India’s Politicians: The town, which played an important role in India’s history, is the site of fiercely fought communal politics.

Nirmala Ganapathy, Straits Times (January 31, 2022): India’s budget to focus on growth amid key state elections and third Covid-19 wave: Economists

South Korea Presidential Election: March 9, 2022

South Korea holds its presidential election on March 9, 2021. Recently, the conservative opposition People Power Party 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.

Four candidates will contest the March presidential election. The frontrunners are retired civil rights lawyer and former Gyeonggi Province (the most populous province that includes Seoul) governor Lee Jae-myung from the Democratic Party and former prosecutor general Yoon Suk-yeol from the People Power Party. Yoon is leading pre-election polls. Ahn Cheol-soo and Sim Sang-jeung, both from small parties, are also running. The campaign has generally been nasty and neither major candidate is particularly popular with voters or with his respective party – both won their primaries narrowly.

South Korea is a key United States ally, and the South Korean public broadly supports the alliance. However, Moon has pursued diplomatic and economic engagement with North Korea and moved closer to China.

Chang May Choon, Straits Times (February 5, 2022): Main opposition candidate in South Korea’s presidential election leads opinion polls

Reuters (February 4, 2022): Ahead of Election, South Korea’s Long-Frenzied Housing Market Shows Signs of Cooling

Ko Jun-tae, Korea Herald (February 4, 2022): Fact check: 1st TV debate for 20th presidential election

Hyonhee Shin, Reuters (February 3, 2022): S.Korean voters hold noses as rivals land low blows in ‘unlikeable’ election

Hong Kong Chief Executive Election: March 27, 2022 (indirect)

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. 

On March 27, 2022, an Election Committee consisting of 1463 people – primarily pro-Beijing politicians and business figures – will choose the Chief Executive. Incumbent Carrie Lam is eligible to run for a second term, but it is unclear whether she will, and the process has been characterized by a lack of transparency and a heavy hand from Beijing. More

Brian Wong, South China Morning post (February 4, 2022): Ex-Hong Kong opposition lawmaker jailed for 3 weeks for contempt after protesting against rival in Legislative Council meeting

Chris Lau, South China Morning Post (February 3, 2022): Here’s what we know so far about this year’s Hong Kong leadership race

Stuart Lau, Politico (February 1, 2022): From Lantau to Ealing: Hong Kong’s homesick exiles in Britain greet the Year of the Tiger: Many want to preserve Hong Kong’s culture of protest against Beijing’s anti-democratic crackdown.

Liz Wolfe, Reason (January 28, 2022): Hong Kong’s Politicians and Cops Use Pandemic Justifications To Do Beijing’s Bidding

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

Straits Times (February 5, 2022): Johor polls see spat between former PMs Muhyiddin and Najib

Vincent Tan, Channel News Asia (January 30, 2022): In Malaysia, new political parties signal their strengths and what they can bring to the table

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.

Stratfor (February 3, 2022): Philippines: New Law Requiring Real ID for Social Media Could Impact Elections

Pauline Macaraeg, Rappler (February 2, 2022): Study finds signs of ‘networked political manipulation’ on social media

Jim Gomez, AP (February 2, 2022): Official who voted to bar Marcos Jr. election bid retires

Karen Lima, Reuters (January 31, 2022): Manila mayor vows to take on China as Philippines president

Richard Javad Heydarian, Asian Financial Review (January 31, 2022): Duterte successor candidates adjust their China policies

Editorial Board, Australian National University (January 31, 2022): Philippine elections expose the politics of China policy

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

Tyrone Clarke, Sky News (February 3, 2022): Scott Morrison warns an Albanese Labor government could ‘appease’ China, says national security ‘at stake’ at election

Chris Uhlmann, Sydney Morning Herald (February 2, 2022): Election not over yet, but Morrison may need another miracle

Reuters (January 30, 2022): Australia PM’s ratings tumble to lowest levels in nearly two years, poll shows

Nepal Local Elections: May 18, 2022 (proposed), followed by General Elections

Several sets of elections could take place in Nepal 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

Tika R Pradhan, Kathmandu Post (February 5, 2022): Holding local level elections on May 18 may not end legal complications: Representatives elected in the second and third phases of the local level polls conducted in 2017 can move court asserting their right to serve for full five years.

Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu Post (February 4, 2022): Country prepares for local polls but college elections are still uncertain: Supposedly biennial elections haven’t been held since 2017.

Saloni Murarka, WION (February 2, 2022): Nepal likely to hold local elections on May 18 in single phase

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

Papua New Guinea holds parliamentary and local elections June 25 – July 8, 2022.

Radio New Zealand (January 29, 2022): PNG facing a myriad of election challenges

Japan House of Councillors Elections: July 25, 2022 (half of upper house at stake) and Okinawa Gubernatorial Election: September 2022 (due)

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.

In addition, Japanese cities and prefectures hold gubernatorial and mayoral elections at various times throughout the year.

This year, a series of elections will take place in Okinawa prefecture, culminating in the gubernatorial vote. Okinawa carries massive geopolitical importance and currently hosts around 26,000 United States military personnel. Political debate is revolving around the relocation of United States Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. Both the United States and the Japanese governments want to relocate the base, but opposition in Okinawa has delayed the plan.

Kyodo News Agency (February 4, 2022): Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki to seek second term in September poll

Jack McKenzie, Jurist (February 2, 2022): Japan court upholds election results despite finding unconstitutionality

Stratfor (February 1, 2022): Japan: Parliament Adopts Resolution on Human Rights in China

Kyodo News Agency (February 1, 2022): Court questions October election outcome over vote weight disparity

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.

The next presidential and legislative elections are due in 2024. Relations with China are a dominant theme in Taiwan’s political debate.

Tsukasa Hadano, Nikkei Asia (January 31, 2022): China eyes ‘armed unification’ with Taiwan by 2027: key academic

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.

Victoria Milko, AP (February 4, 2022): Death, danger, despair: A year in Burma under the military

Maroosha Muzaffar, The Independent (February 1, 2022): Myanmar marks coup anniversary with trial date for Aung San Suu Kyi and new charges

Rodion Ebbighausen, DW (February 1, 2022): Myanmar women take the lead in resisting the military

Tyler Giannini, Justin Cole and Emily Ray, Just Security (February 1, 2022): From ‘8888’ to ‘2121’: A New Generation of Resistance in Myanmar

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)

Japan, Gubernatorial Election in Okinawa: September 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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