Asia This Week: May 6, 2022

May 6, 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.

Night falls over Hong Kong. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Mstyslav Chernov (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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

William Yang, DW (May 6, 2022): Hong Kong election: Will the crackdown on rights and freedoms continue?

Jenni Marsh Bloomberg (May 4, 2022): How China Has Stacked the Deck in Hong Kong Elections

Candice Chau, Hong Kong Free Press (May 1, 2022): Explainer: 7 charts showing voter demographics in Hong Kong’s first ‘patriots-only’ legislative election

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.

Weizhen Tan, CNBC (May 6, 2022): As the Philippine election draws near, China-friendly Marcos still retains a wide lead

Cliff Venzon, Financial Times (May 4, 2022): The Marcos revival: how late Philippine dictator’s son went from exile to election favourite

Cliff Venzon, Nikkei Asia (May 4, 2022): South China Sea issue will weigh on next Philippine president

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

Allan Glyngell, Australian Financial Review (May 6, 2022): Why the G20 meeting in Bali is make or break for Australia: As foreign policy takes centre stage in the campaign, the unstable global order is complicating Canberra’s century-long search for a seat at the table.

Graeme Dobell, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (May 5, 2022): Plenty of blows but no knockouts in pre-election defence debate

Rod McGuirk, AP (May 5, 2022): Debate sparks over China’s interest in Australian election

David Crowe, Sydney Morning Herald (May 5, 2022): Voters concerned about Chinese security pact with Solomon Islands

Richard Herr, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (May 5, 2022): Australia’s thin red line on China in the Solomons

Jessica Riga, ABC News Australia (May 3, 2022): Federal election: Rising interest and inflation rates dominate debate between Josh Frydenberg and Jim Chalmers — as it happened

AFP (April 29, 2022): China-Solomons security deal upends Australian 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. 

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

Tita Sanglee, The Diplomat (May 5, 2022): The Significance of the Long-Awaited Bangkok Gubernatorial Election

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.

DW (May 7, 2022): North Korea fires suspected submarine-launched ballistic missile

Reuters (May 5, 2022): N. Korea slams South’s new leader as ‘pro-US, confrontational’

Jong Eun Lee, East Asia Forum (May 5, 2022): Deep divisions in South Korean politics

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 (May 6, 2022): European Parliament calls on Cambodian government to stop targeting opponents

Luke Hunt, Voice of America (May 5, 2022): Cambodia’s ‘Democratic Credentials’ at Stake in Local Elections

Radio Free Asia (May 4, 2022): Cambodia’s Supreme Court upholds 7-year sentence for opposition party activist

Waris Husain and a Trial Monitoring Attorney, Just Security (May 4, 2022): How Cambodia’s Human Rights Crackdown Undermines Regional Security

Sopheng Cheang, AP (May 3, 2022): Cambodian dissident dresses up as ‘Lady Justice’ for trial

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.

Jiro Otani, Japan Forward (May 6, 2022): Kishida: LDP to Call for Constitutional Change in Next Elections

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.

The Sentinel Assam (May 5, 2022): In Maldives, protests against pro-Chinese former President sharpen

Parul Chandra, Deccan Herald (May 4, 2022): In the Maldives, India deftly watches China’s moves: India’s engagement has acquired a sense of urgency as the archipelago is headed for elections next year

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

Joshua Kurlantzick, World Politics Review (May 2, 2022): Whenever Jokowi Leaves Office, Indonesia’s Democracy Will Be Worse Off

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.

Denghua Zhang, Lincy Pendeverana, and Walter Diamana, The Diplomat (May 4, 2022): What Do China and Solomon Islands Get From Their Security Pact? A look at China’s goals and the domestic politics of the deal in the Solomons.

Nick Sas, ABC News Australia (April 29, 2022): Solomon Islands security pact with China all part of PM Manasseh Sogavare’s plan as ‘unpredictable’ but ‘deft political operator’

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

Outlook India (May 6, 2022): Students Protest In Sri Lanka Amid Political Unrest: Sri Lanka government won a key vote in Parliament on Thursday as a ruling coalition-backed candidate was elected deputy speaker, despite growing public pressure on the government amid the worst economic crisis in decades.

Krishan Francis and Eranga Jayawardena, AP (May 6, 2022): Sri Lanka leader declares emergency amid protests

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.

Parker Novak, Lowy Institute (May 4, 2022): Three takeaways from Timor‑Leste’s presidential election

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

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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