Asia This Week: March 25, 2022

March 25, 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.

Beach in Dili, Timor-Leste. Photo credit: Flickr/Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ (CC BY 2.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

Timor-Leste Presidential Runoff: April 19, 2022

Timor-Leste (also called East Timor) held a presidential election on March 19. Current president Francisco Guterres, called Lú-Olo, first elected in 2017, trailed former president José Ramos-Horta. Because no candidate got a majority, a runoff is set for April 19, 2022.

Since winning independence from Indonesia in a referendum 20 years ago, Timor-Leste has become a democracy rated Free by Freedom House, although many challenges remain.

Li-Li Chen, The Diplomat (March 23, 2022): Observations From the First Round of Timor-Leste’s Presidential Election

Nelson Da Cruz, Reuters (March 22, 2022): East Timor presidential election headed for April run-off

Joao Da Cruz Cardoso, Lowy Institute (March 17, 2022): Timor-Leste’s presidential election: Watching for generational change

Fernando Da Costa, AP (March 16, 2022): East Timor gears up for election to break political impasse: Thousands of people in East Timor have flocked to presidential campaign rallies days before an election that will test the young nation’s stability amid a protracted political crisis and economic uncertainty

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, is running 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, people vote for president and vice president 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.

Jim Gomez and Aaron Vavila, AP (March 25, 2022): Philippine vote campaign starts amid violence, virus fears

Raissa Robles, South China Morning Post (March 24, 2022): Philippine presidential election heats up as Marcos and Duterte lose ground to Robredo in key battleground of Davao

Yen Nee Lee, CNBC (March 23, 2022): The Philippines’ pivot toward China could change when Duterte steps down as president

Reuters (March 22, 2022): Philippine election frontrunner Marcos endorsed by president’s party

Cliff Venzon, Nikkei Asia (March 22, 2022): Duterte’s party backs front-runner Marcos for Philippine president: Fresh endorsement for late dictator’s son comes as Robredo gains ground

Faith Brown, AFP (March 22, 2022): Marcos heir wins Philippine election misinformation race

Nepal Local Elections: May 13, 2022, followed by General Elections

Several sets of elections could take place in Nepal within the next year. Local elections have been set for May 13.

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 (March 21, 2022): As coalition’s poll alliance conundrum continues, Congress to decide on Friday

IFES (March 17, 2022): Young Nepali leader advocate for enfranchisement of young voters in the 2022 elections

Santosh Sharma Poudel, The Diplomat (March 17, 2022): What Lies Behind Prachanda’s Volte-face on Nepal’s Ratification of the Millennium Challenge Compact? Domestic politics and personal insecurity prompted the former Maoist chief’s decisions to oppose and subsequently support ratification of the agreement.

Biswas Baral, The Diplomat (March 14, 2022): Nepal Ratified the MCC Compact. What Now? How will the U.S. grant – approved despite a raging controversy – factor into both upcoming elections and Nepal’s diplomatic positioning?

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

Australia’s federal parliamentary elections are due May 21, 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

The state of South Australia held state elections on March 19, 2022. The center-left Labor won, defeating the incumbent center-right Liberal minority government, which had only been in office for one term. These elections come ahead of federal elections due in May. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party are struggling.

South Australia

Ben Westcott, Bloomberg (March 19, 2022): Shock State Election Loss Spells Trouble for Australian PM

Adrian Beaumont, The Conversation (March 19, 2022): Labor easily wins South Australian election, but upper house could be a poor result

Tory Shepherd, The Guardian (March 18, 2022): ‘Hard to read’: Labor is clear favourite in South Australia’s election – but local issues muddy the waters

Federal Election

Daniel Hurst, The Guardian (March 24, 2022): ‘We never interfere’: China will not try to influence federal election, says new ambassador to Australia

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.

Mark S. Cogan, Geopolitical Monitor (March 24, 2022): Japan’s Recent Diplomacy in Cambodia Bears Fruit

Eugene Wong, Radio Free Asia (March 21, 2022): Japan calls for fair elections in Cambodia after years of crackdowns

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.

Papua New Guinea’s politics are chaotic, and no single party has ever commanded a majority in parliament. Coalitions shift frequently. Current prime minister James Marape came into power in May 2018 when former prime minister Peter O’Neill lost a no-confidence vote after being in power for eight years.

Theresa Meki and Geejay Milli, Asia and the Pacific Society Policy Forum (March 25, 2022): Papua New Guinea’s pandemic election

Leanne Jorari, The Guardian (March 18, 2022): ‘It’s not a publicity stunt’: the push to elect female MPs to PNG’s men-only parliament

Radio New Zealand (March 18, 2022): PNG police may not get guns they want for election security

Sue Ahearn, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (March 17, 2022): How China is winning the information war in the Pacific

Thailand, Local Elections in Bangkok and Pattaya: May 22, 2022, and 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

AFP (March 17, 2022): Thailand faces early election as coalition cracks widen

Supoj Wancharoen, Bangkok Post (March 17, 2022): Bangkok governor to run for election

Thai PBS World (March 14, 2022): Local elections in Bangkok, Pattaya set for May 22

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.

Burma is of geopolitical importance because of its location on the Indian Ocean. China has sought to cultivate ties in order to get more access to the Indian Ocean, and simultaneously, western governments have at times pursued warmer relations with the regime.

Tommy Walker, Radio Free Asia (March 25, 2022): ‘Press Freedom is Dead Already in Burma,’ Journalist Says

Radio Free Asia (March 21, 2022): ASEAN envoy arrives in Myanmar to ‘end violence,’ but won’t meet opposition

Al Jazeera (March 21, 2022): US declares Myanmar army committed genocide against Rohingya

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.

Reuters (March 25, 2022): Maldives’ former president plots comeback with ‘India Out’ campaign

Sudha Ramachandran, The Diplomat (March 23, 2022): India-Maldives Ties Caught in Archipelago’s Domestic Politics: With a proposed law to criminalize the “India Out” campaign being put in cold storage, anti-India protests will continue.

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

John McBeth, Asia Times (March 7, 2022): A subversive game of thrones in Indonesia: Politically powerful forces are aligning to push for President Joko Widodo to stay on beyond his 2024 two-term limit

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

Malaysia, Early State Elections in Johor: March 12, 2022, followed by 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.

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.

Johor state, which borders Singapore, held snap elections on March 12, 2022 after the state’s chief minister dissolved the state legislature (elections were originally due in 2023). UNMO won, building on momentum from victories in other recent state elections. More

P Prem Kumar, Nikkei Asia (March 18, 2022): Malaysia’s UMNO assembly amps up pressure on PM to call election: ’How long do we want to wait?’ emboldened ruling party chief tells delegates

The Star/Asia News Network (March 14, 2022): Pressure to mount for early Malaysian general election

Sebastian Strangio, The Diplomat (March 14, 2022): Malaysia’s Grand Old Party Scores Decisive Victory in Pivotal State Election

Philip Heijmans, Bloomberg (March 13, 2022): Malaysia Won’t Rush National Vote After UMNO’s Big Johor Win

Rozanna Latiff, Reuters (March 11, 2022): Malaysia polls in spotlight as reforms see youth voter influx

South Korea Presidential Election: March 9, 2022

South Korea held its presidential election on March 9, 2021. The conservative former prosecutor general Yoon Suk-yeol from the People Power Party won, narrowly defeating Lee Jae-myung from the Democratic Party, the center-left party of current president Moon Jae-in. The campaign was 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. This could change under Yoon.

Darcie Draudt, The Diplomat (March 23, 2022): What President Yoon Suk-yeol’s Election Means for South Korean Democracy: Yoon has two important tasks in front of him: mending emergent social divisions and making institutional changes to prevent – not just punish – corruption.

Andrew Yee, Brookings Institution (March 10, 2022): What to expect from the incoming South Korean president’s domestic and foreign policy agendas

AFP (March 5, 2022): North Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of South’s election

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

Five Indian states held elections in early 2022. These elections served as a key test for the national parties – and PM Narendra Modi – as well as the opposition 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.

In Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, the BJP maintained its dominance and won. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a controversial firebrand Hindu monk, will remain in office. BJP also won re-election in Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur. Congress suffered a surprise defeat in Punjab, the one state up for election where it had been in power, to  Aam Admi (Common Person) Party, a relatively anti-corruption party that is currently in power in New Delhi’s local government.

Several more states are due to vote before the 2024 general elections.

Anik Joshi, The Diplomat (March 24, 2022): India’s Leaderless Opposition: The bad news is that India’s opposition still does not have a face; the good news is it has two years to sort that out.

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

Timor-Leste Presidential Runoff: April 19, 2022

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

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

Nepal Local Elections: May 13, 2022

Australia Parliamentary Elections: By May 21, 2022 (due – could take place earlier)

Thailand, Local Elections in Bangkok and Pattaya: May 22, 2022

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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