Asia This Week: April 8, 2022

April 8, 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.

Philippines VP Leni Robredo campaigning in April 2022. Although “Bongbong” Marcos, son of the former dictator, currently leads the polls, Robredo is gaining ground. Photo credit: WIkimedia/patrickroque01 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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.

AP (March 27, 2022): East Timor set for presidential runoff election in April

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.

This year, Labor, under the leadership of Anthony Albanese, hopes to come back into power after __ years in opposition. More

Kristy Needham, Reuters (April 7, 2022): Australia’s government prepares to call election

Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald (April 2, 2022): It’s a leap of faith, Australia: Albanese pledges are light on detail

Nic Fildes, Financial Times (March 29, 2022): Australia delivers giveaway budget as general election looms: Treasurer cuts taxes and increases spending on defence as ruling coalition struggles in polls

Swati Pandey, Bloomberg (March 29, 2022): Australia Election Budget Targets Women With More Spending

Prashant Mehra, Nikkei Asia (March 28, 2022): Australia PM faces budget test as inflation flares before election

Reuters (March 26, 2022): Australia flags move on high fuel prices as election nears

Hong Kong Chief Executive Election: May 8, 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 May 8, 2022 (delayed from March), an Election Committee consisting of 1463 people – primarily pro-Beijing politicians and business figures – will choose the Chief Executive. Incumbent Carrie Lam has indicated that she will not run for a second term. Overall, the process has been characterized by a lack of transparency and a heavy hand from Beijing. More

Charles Mok, The Diplomat (April 9, 2022): China’s Choice for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Reveals Its Own Insecurity: John Lee’s background is heavy on security, showing Beijing values that over Hong Kong’s economic prosperity.

AP (April 7, 2022): Staunch crackdown supporter says he will run for Hong Kong’s top job

Jessie Yeung, CNN (April 4, 2022): Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam will not seek a second term

Timothy McLaughlin, The Atlantic (April 3, 2022): The Final Blow to Hong Kong: The city deftly connected China and the world for decades. That historic balancing act won’t be revived.

Reuters (April 2, 2022): Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam says leadership election to go ahead as planned

Selina Cheng, Hong Kong Free Press (April 1, 2022): US & UK annual reports on Hong Kong claim ‘unprecedented’ control by China on elections, media, judiciary

Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch (March 26, 2022): Pandemic strikes new, authoritarian Hong Kong

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. intact.

Voice of America (April 7, 2022): Trolls, Disinformation Make Philippine Election Coverage a Challenge

Cliff Venzon, Nikkei Asia (April 6, 2022): Robredo gains on Marcos in Philippine presidential race

South China Morning Post (April 4, 2022): In lead-up to Philippine election, Beijing warns Manila to avoid ‘disturbances’ upsetting its China policy

Julie McCarthy, NPR (April 2, 2022): Philippines’ presidential election resurfaces old scandal

Anthony Esguerra, Voice of America (April 1, 2022): Inside the Philippines’ Critical Presidential Election: Marcos Jr. leads Leni Robredo in the race, but with a month left until election day much can still change.

Adele Webb, Lowy Institute (March 28, 2022): How the Marcos family could rule again in the Philippines: In a country where the average age is 25, has collective
memory been washed of the nation’s iron-fisted kleptocrat?

Vatican News (March 28, 2022): Philippine election: Bishops urge voters to keep at heart the common good

Thailand, Local Elections in Bangkok and Pattaya: May 22, 2022, and General Elections: By March 23, 2023 (snap 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. 

In addition, snap general elections are possible. More

Caleb Quinley, Al Jazeera (April 7, 2022): ‘Repression breeds defiance’: Thai activists unbowed by detention

Thai PBS World (March 28, 2022): Big preparations underway for Bangkok’s first governor, council elections in many years

Thomas Kutty Abraham, Bloomberg (March 27, 2022): Thai PM Prayuth Slips in Survey as Voters Split Ahead of Vote

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.

Union of Catholic Asian News (April 6, 2022): Cambodia’s election body blocks 150 opposition candidates

Human Rights Watch (April 4, 2022): Cambodia: backsliding on human rights jeopardizes free and fair elections

Sam Rainsy, The Diplomat (April 1, 2022): How the Candlelight Party Can Restore Political Pluralism to Cambodia: Since the banning of the Cambodia National Rescue Party in 2017, an old party has kept its flame burning.

Radio Free Asia (April 1, 2022): Cambodian election authority removes opposition candidates from list

Radio Free Asia (March 29, 2022): Cambodia’s small but growing opposition party threatens to boycott upcoming elections: Candlelight Party officials say they face harassment from local authorities.

Human Rights Watch (March 29, 2022): Cambodia: French Court Indicts Hun Sen Cronies

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.

Papua New Guinea’s parliament currently has no women – it is one of only three all-male parliaments in the world. However, efforts are being made to elect women this year.

Melissa Maykin, Inga Stunzner and Hilda Wayne, ABC News Australia (April 1, 2022): PNG heads to the polls in June this year — will it be a chance for women to finally shine?

Derrick Malama, Hawaii Public Radio (March 28, 2022): Pacific News Minute: Papua New Guinea political heavyweight endorses 4 women in parliamentary election

Maholopa Laveil, Lowy Institute (March 28, 2022): PNG’s 2022 election takes shape

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

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. Former foreign minister Fumio Kishida, who won the LDP’s pre-election leadership contest after former prime minister Yoshihide Suga decided not to run for re-election, was thus elected prime minister.

The upper house elections are important because a win for LDP would bring more political stability and reduce the chances of snap general elections.

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

Reuters (March 27, 2022): Support for Japan government rises on response to Ukraine invasion – survey

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

Kate Lamb and Stanley Widianto, Reuters (April 7, 2022): Indonesia president seeks to end talk he is angling for a new term

Yerica Lai, Jakarta Post (April 7, 2022): ‘No more calls for term extension nor elections delay’: Jokowi tells aides

Tim Lindsey, The Conversation (March 31, 2022): Indonesia battles a push to postpone elections – and undermine its fragile democracy

Solomon Islands General Elections: April 2024 (due)

The Solomon Islands general elections are due in April 2024. The last elections took place 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.

Richard Herr, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (April 6, 2022): In signing deal with China, Solomon Islands has broken the trust of its Pacific neighbours

Matthew Wale, The Guardian (March 30, 2022): The Solomon Islands deal with China isn’t about security – and it will hurt the Pacific

Malaysia Early General Elections: Expected

Malaysia will likely call early general elections once the COVID-19 emergency 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 (April 8, 2022): Malaysian opposition hit by doubts over leader Anwar as polls loom: Missteps in state elections cast shadow over longtime prime ministerial hopeful

Rashvinjeet S Bedi and Amir Yusof, Channel News Asia (March 28, 2022): IN FOCUS: With a general election looming in Malaysia, youth votes may hold key to power

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

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.

Seoho Lee, Asia Times (April 7, 2022): In Korean election ‘dogfight in the mire,’ pets took key roles

Hyonhee Shin, Reuters (April 4, 2022): South Korea president-elect’s team visits U.S. with eye on early Biden summit

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.

Neelanjan Sircar, World Politics Review (April 8, 2022): Modi’s BJP Shores Up Its National Dominance With State Elections Sweep

Gareth Price, Chatham House (April 1, 2022): India: The BJP show rolls on

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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