Asia This Week: April 29, 2022

April 29, 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.

Hong Kong’s iconic Star Ferry, which is at risk of folding after 142 years in service. Perhaps fitting given the end of Hong Kong’s democracy at Beijing’s hands. Photo credit: Flickr/Ron Reiring (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, Financial Times (April 29, 2022): Hong Kong, my vanishing city

AP (April 29, 2022): Hong Kong’s John Lee pledges to enact local security law

Almond Li, Hong Kong Free Press (April 26, 2022): Hong Kong nat’l security judge urges speedy trial for 47 democrats, more than a year after most taken into custody

Natalie Wong, Chris Lau, and Gary Cheung, ASEANplus News (April 24, 2022): Hong Kong chief executive election 2022: John Lee recruits 150 political, business heavyweights to steer final campaign push

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.

Richard Heydarian, South China Morning Post (April 30, 2022): What will shape Philippines’ foreign policy post Duterte, and should China be concerned?

Basti Evangelista, Yahoo! Philippines (April 27, 2022): ELECTIONS 2022: Mega Manila is key battleground in presidential race, analyst says

Kaukab Shairani, DW (April 27, 2022): Philippines elections: Why are people wearing pink?

Regine Cabato, Washington Post (April 27, 2022): Is the Philippines ready for another Duterte: Sara Duterte-Carpio appears likely to become the country’s next vice president, but her supporters say she’s very different from her controversial father

Foreign Policy (April 25, 2022): Why Corruption Thrives in the Philippines

Anthony Esguerra, Voice of America (April 25, 2022): Philippines Presidential Election a Rematch Between Late Dictator’s Son, Democratic Leader

Rappler (April 23, 2022): Amid fears of election fraud, 1Sambayan launches HOPE vote checking app

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 Giri, Kathmandu Post (April 29, 2022): Top US official to visit Nepal prior to local elections

Kathmandu Post (April 24, 2022): Everything you need to know about May 13 local polls

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

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

Kirsty Needham, Reuters (April 27, 2022): Analysis: Solomon Islands pact with China roils Australian PM’s election campaign

Rod McGuirk, AP (April 27, 2022): Australian minister accuses China of election interference

Geoff Hiscock, Nikkei Asia (April 27, 2022): Australia’s republican quandary: how to pick a president: Voters are in no rush to dump the British monarchy, despite demographic change

David Flint, The Spectator (April 23, 2022): Is Albo another Biden? The most crucial election in our history

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. 

Next up: Bangkok holds its first gubernatorial election in nine years on May 22 (Pattaya also holds local elections that day). In addition, snap general elections are possible. More

Thai PBS World (April 25, 2022): Bangkok gubernatorial candidates step up their campaigns on Sunday

South Korea Local Elections: June 1, 2022

South Korea holds local elections on June 1. These follow the March presidential election, which conservative Yook Seol-yeol former prosecutor general won. He narrowly defeated Lee Jae-myung from the Democratic Party, the center-left party of incumbent 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.

Yosuke Onichi, Nikkei Asia (April 24, 2022): Testing times: South Korean aspiring politicians sit written exam: Brainchild of young party leader, tests come ahead of key local elections

Hyung-A Kim, East Asia Forum (April 23, 2022): Yoon Seok-yeol’s rise from rebel prosecutor to president

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 28, 2022): Tensions rise in Cambodia ahead of commune elections: Activists remember the killing of environmentalist Chut Vuthy and call for a fresh investigation

Radio Free Asia (April 28, 2022): Cambodia arrests leader of opposition political party who was in hiding

Luke Hunt, The Diplomat (April 27, 2022): Under Kishida, Tokyo Sharpens Its Focus on Cambodia: Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested a “comprehensive strategic partnership” with Japan.

Kimseng Men, Voice of America (April 22, 2022): Cambodia Hires DC Firms to Burnish Image, Attract Investment

Fiji Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due)

Fiji is due to hold parliamentary elections in November 2022. In 2006, Josaia Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama seized power in a coup. Since then, the country has held several sets of elections that Bainimarama has won. Despite concerns about media freedom and political space for the opposition, some observers have deemed the elections credible – Bainimarama has at least brought political stability, making him popular with many Fijians.

Radio New Zealand (April 28, 2022): Fiji election polls point to another tight election race

Inoke Rabonu, Fiji Sun (April 26, 2022): Game On, Elections Campaign Begins

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.

Rebecca Falconer, Axios (April 27, 2022): Myanmar junta sentences Aung San Suu Kyi to 5 years in prison for corruption

Bloomberg News (April 26, 2022): Myanmar’s Path From Junta Rule to Democracy and Back

Mong Palatino, Global Voices (April 25, 2022): Myanmar activists launch ‘Blue Shirt’ campaign to show solidarity with political prisoners: More than 10,000 political prisoners remain in detention

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.

Sidhant Sibal, WION (April 28, 2022): Maldives’ Nasheed blames Yameen for anti-India sentiment; calls joining China’s BRI a mistake

Avas (April 27, 2022): Nasheed will contest in the 2023 election: MP Eva

TRT World (April 25, 2022): Why has a movement that wants ‘India Out’ of the Maldives been banned?

Bangladesh Parliamentary Elections: December 2023 (due)

Bangladesh is due to hold general elections in December 2023. The Awami League (AL) has been in power since 2009 and has been accused of becoming increasingly authoritarian. The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has boycotted recent elections, undercutting their democratic legitimacy.

On the geopolitical front, Bangladesh has risen in importance in recent years in the midst of high economic growth. 

Ali Riaz, Foreign Affairs (April 29, 2022): Bangladesh’s Quiet Slide Into Autocracy: The End of a Democratic Success Story

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.

The Solomon Islands announced a security deal with China in March 2022. This decision sent geopolitical shockwaves throughout the region.

Michael Smith, Australian Financial Review (April 29, 2022): Solomons PM slams AUKUS as China calls military base ‘fake news’

Brendan Nicholson, Real Clear Defense (April 23, 2022): Opposition Leader Says Solomon Islanders Don’t Want Deal With China

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

Krutika Pathi and Krishan Francis, AP (April 28, 2022): A political reckoning in Sri Lanka as debt crisis grows

Sudha Ramachandran, The Diplomat (April 26, 2022): Sri Lankan President and PM Locked in a Tug-of-War: Under pressure from the people to resign, Gotabaya and Mahinda Rajapaksa are scheming separately, each to sink the other to save his own seat.

Past 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. Ramos-Horta won the April 19 runoff.

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.

Dércio Tsandzana and Fernanda Canofre, Global Voices (April 26, 2022): On Timor-Leste’s 20th independence anniversary, former president Ramos-Horta makes a comeback

Ryan Dagur, UCA News (April 26, 2022): Vatican envoy praises Timor-Leste for peaceful election: Msgr. Sprizzi hopes the country under Jose Ramos-Horta will maintain and build further ties with the Holy See

Grant Wilson, Australian Financial Review (April 26, 2022): The sun is set to rise over East Timor: If Australia does not support East Timor in developing the Greater Sunrise gas field, after the diplomatic mishandling of a security pact with Solomon Islands, China will

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.

Bibhudatta Pradhan, Bloomberg (April 27, 2022): Modi Weighs Replacing India’s Religion-Based Laws Before Polls

Tarushi Aswani, The Diplomat (April 27, 2022): Modi Flaunts India’s Grassroots Democracy on Visit to Jammu and Kashmir

The Wire India (April 24, 2022): Hold Polls Soon in J&K: Newspaper Editorials Say PM’s Visit, Announcements Not Enough

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

South Korea Local Elections: June 1, 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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