Asia This Week: April 22, 2022

April 22, 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.

Dili, capital of Timor-Leste. Former president José Ramos-Horta defeated incumbent Francisco Guterres in the April 19 runoff election. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Nick Hobgood (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

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. Former security chief John Lee is the only candidate to replace her. Overall, the process has been characterized by a lack of transparency and a heavy hand from Beijing. More

Louisa Lim, Wall Street Journal (April 22, 2022): The Unofficial Story of the Handover of Hong Kong: Records of the negotiations between the U.K. and China in the 1980s shed new light on today’s attacks on Hong Kong’s freedoms.

Yu Fat and Lee Yuk Yue, Radio Free Asia (April 19, 2022): Hong Kong says voters only have one option in ‘elections’ for city’s next leader

Natalie Wong and Gary Cheung, South China Morning Post (April 15, 2022): Hong Kong chief executive election 2022: why did Beijing pick John Lee to be the city’s next leader?

Joey Siu, The Diplomat (April 11, 2022): Carrie Lam’s Departure Signals a Further Crackdown in Hong Kong

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

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.

Joshua Kurlantzick, Council on Foreign Relations (April 21, 2022): The Philippines Election: A Critical Moment for Philippine Democracy

Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema, Reuters (April 20, 2022): Philippines’ poll body throws out last petition against Marcos

Julie McCarthy, NPR (April 17, 2022): Fake sexual material targets the only woman running for president in the Philippines

Michelle Abad, Rappler (April 10, 2022): Overseas voting begins for 2022 Philippine elections

Andreo Calonzo, Bloomberg (April 7, 2022): Hundreds of Facebook Pages Removed as Philippines Vote Nears

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

Anil Sigdel and Mani Dahal, East Asia Forum (April 22, 2022): US–China rivalry complicates development aid in Nepal

Namit Wagley, World Politics Review (April 18, 2022): Nepal’s Democracy Faces a Year of High-Stakes Tests

Biswas Baral, The Conversation (April 13, 2022): 5 Years of Local Governance in Nepal: Nepal is heading into its second round of local elections under its 2015 constitution. How have local governments fared in their inaugural session?

Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu Post (April 11, 2022): Election year is here. Poll expenses major cause for concern

Santosh Sharma Poudel, The Diplomat (April 8, 2022): Deuba’s India Visit Arrests Drift in India-Nepal Relations: The Varanasi leg of the Nepali PM’s visit to India was aimed at taking the wind off the sails of both Hindu nationalists and the main opposition back home.

Australia Parliamentary Elections: May 21, 2022

Australia is holding federal parliamentary elections on May 21, 2022. 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 nine years in opposition. More

Rod McGuirk, AP (April 20, 2022): Australian party leaders clash on China in election debate

Tom Chodor, Unherd (April 20, 2022): Australia’s zombie election: This battle of personalities is missing a personality

Ian Kemish, The Conversation (April 14, 2022): How should the next Australian government handle the Pacific?

Rod McGuirk, AP (April 10, 2022): Australia PM Morrison first to serve full term in 15 years: In at least one sense, Scott Morrison is the most successful Australian prime minister in years

Renju Jose, Reuters (April 11, 2022): Australian election campaign kicks off with opposition ahead in polls

Simone McCarthy, CNN (April 10, 2022): Australian leader sets general election for May 21

David Hurst, The Guardian (April 1, 2022): Australia to sign trade deal with India as Coalition clears decks for election

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

Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat, Nikkei Asia (April 11, 2022): Bangkok to hold gubernatorial election for first time in 9 years: Contest seen as prelude to Thai general poll, with 700,000 new voters in mix

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.

Tha Thai, Radio Free Asia (April 20, 2022): Hun Sen’s call for fair local elections this June in Cambodia raises eyebrows

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

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.

Michael Kabuni, Lowy Institute (April 19, 2022): With elections looming, PNG rushed to create seven new districts

Don Wiseman, Radio New Zealand (April 11, 2022): PNG counting down to national elections

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.

Kenichi Onozawa, Nikkei Asia (April 19, 2022): Weak yen vexes Team Kishida as inflation looms over election

JIJI (April 10, 2022): Fierce battle seen for Tokyo in Japan Upper House poll

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.

Nirupama Subramanian, Indian Express (April 22, 2022): Maldives issues decree to ban anti-India protests: The decree, issued in the Dhivehi language, says the state has a duty to ensure the security of diplomats posted to the country and diplomatic missions.

Aditya Bhan, News18 (April 10, 2022): Maldives: Will ‘India Out’ Overwhelm ‘India First’ Close to Elections?

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

Dio Suhenda, Jakarta Post (April 22, 2022): Islamic parties may face uphill battle in 2024 elections, experts say

Fadlan Syam and Niniek Karmini, AP (April 21, 2022): Hundreds in Jakarta protest talk of 2024 election delay

Voice of America (April 11, 2022): Indonesians Protest Rumors of 2024 Election Postponement

Sebastian Strangio, The Diplomat (April 11, 2022): Indonesia’s Jokowi Denies Plan to Extend His Term Beyond 2024: In recent months, senior politicians have made controversial proposals to extend the Indonesian leader’s tenure.

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.

Subsequently, the country announced a security deal with China in March 2022. This decision sent geopolitical shockwaves throughout the region.

Michael E. Miller and Frances Vinall, Washington Post (April 20, 2022): China signs security deal with Solomon Islands, alarming neighbors

Paul Karp, The Guardian (April 20, 2022): Morrison and Albanese clash on Solomon Islands-China pact in first leaders’ debate of federal election

AP (April 13, 2022): Australian minister tries to end Solomons-China pact

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

Malaysia 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

Ram Anand, Shannon Teoh, and Hazlin Hassan, Straits Times (April 23, 2022): Power plays: How different parties in Malaysia stack up with a possible election this year

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

Sri Lanka Presidential Election: September 2024 and Parliamentary Elections: August 2025 (snap elections possible)

Sri Lanka is due to hold elections in 2024 and 2025, but snap elections could happen due to the current political and economic crisis. The current president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, won the 2019 election, which took place in a tense political climate following the 2019 Easter bombings.

Former president Maithripala Sirisena, who had surprisingly defeated Gotabaya’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2015 presidential elections, spearheaded a reform program to reverse many of the autocratic powers Mahinda Rajapaksa had built up. However, since Gotabaya took office, he has systematically dismantled those reforms. As a result, Sri Lanka’s democracy sits on the precipice.

The current political crisis began with a series of street protests over daily power cuts and food shortages. The opposition has called for fresh elections.

Sri Lanka’s government, dominated by the Sinhalese ethnic group, fought a decades-long civil war with the rebel Tamil Tigers. The war ended in 2009, but tensions reignited in 2019 following the 2019 Easter bombings. Sri Lanka is located strategically in the Indian Ocean. Chinese involvement has raised concerns – Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port has become a textbook example of Chinese debt-trap diplomacy

Joe Wallen, The Spectator (April 19, 2022): Sri Lanka’s descent into chaos

Niluksi Koswanage, Bloomberg (April 18, 2022): How Sri Lanka Landed in a Political and Economic Crisis and What It Means

Sudha Ramachandran, The Diplomat (April 13, 2022): Sri Lankans Gear Up to Remove the Rajapaksas: That will not be easy as the president enjoys enormous powers and cannot be impeached easily.

Devjyot Ghoshal and Uditha Jayasinghe, Reuters (April 6, 2022): In stunning reversal, protests leave Sri Lanka’s ruling dynasty teetering

Sri Lanka is located strategically in the Indian Ocean. Chinese involvement has raised concerns – Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port has become a textbook example of Chinese debt-trap diplomacy. Historically, there was a perception that China backed the Rajapaksas and India backed parties opposed to them.

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

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.

Cristina Gallardo and Graham Lanktree, Politico (April 19, 2022): Boris Johnson tries to lure India toward the West: Uncertainty about India’s position on the war in Ukraine will overshadow the UK prime minister’s trip.

Pratap Chakravarty, RFI (April 10, 2022): India jacks up diesel, petrol prices in aftermath of state elections

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

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

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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