Asia This Week: June 3, 2022

June 3, 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.

Gyeongdong Market in Seoul, South Korea, one of the biggest herbal medicine markets in the country. Conservatives won the recent local elections, following their victory in the March presidential election. Wikimedia/Gaël Chardon (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

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.

However, in early 2022, the opposition has been gaining ground, reorganizing itself into the Candlelight Party and hoping to make gains in upcoming elections.

Andrew Haffner, Al Jazeera (June 3, 2022): ‘We’re back’: Cambodia’s embattled opposition hopes for revival

Kasit Piromya, The Diplomat (June 1, 2022): Cambodia Needs Democracy, Not Another Electoral Charade: When Cambodians vote in commune elections this weekend, the world should not be fooled by the appearance of political pluralism

India Presidential Election (by Parliament): July 18, 2022

India’s parliament will vote for a president on July 18, 2022, but in India’s parliamentary system, this largely a ceremonial role.

In the last parliamentary 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. The next general elections are due in 2024, and a number of states hold elections between now and then. State elections matter because much of policymaking happens at the state level.

While India was nonaligned during the Cold War, it has recently ramped up its competition with China and moved closer to other democratic powers, including forming the Quad security dialogue with the United States, Australia, and Japan.

AP (June 3, 2022): How India’s Hindu nationalists are using a long-dead emperor for anti-Muslim politics

Harikishan Sharma, Indian Express (June 2, 2022): Narendra Modi, the first Prime Minister of India to have been born post Independence

Malavika Kaur Makol and Adrija Chatterjee, Bloomberg (June 2, 2022): Surging tomato prices in India could sour Modi’s re-election ambitions

Papua New Guinea Parliamentary and Local Elections: Beginning July 16, 2022 (delayed following death of deputy prime minister)

Papua New Guinea holds parliamentary and local elections this summer. The start date was delayed due to the death of the deputy prime minister.

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.

AFP, SBS (June 3, 2022): China, Papua New Guinea discuss free-trade deal in middle of election campaign

Michael Smith, Australian Financial Review (June 2, 2022): PNG election hopeful wants to work with Australia and China

Natalie Whiting, ABC News Australia (May 31, 2022): China’s Foreign Minister is on a charm offensive in the Pacific, but he’ll land in PNG during an awkward time

Radio New Zealand (June 1, 2022): PNG elections: Female candidates ‘young and determined’

Anthony Galloway, Sydney Morning Herald (May 29, 2022): More than 100 Australian Defense Force personnel to be sent to PNG to help with election, cyber threats

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.

Elaine Lies, Reuters (May 30, 2022): Japan PM Kishida’s support hits highest ever as election nears -Nikkei

Kantaro Komiya, Reuters (May 29, 2022): Japan governor wins re-election, NHK says, in race seen key to nuclear restart

Taiwan Local Elections: November 26, 2022

Taiwan, a robust democracy, has scheduled “nine-in-one” local elections for November 26, 2022. Voters will elect nine categories of local officials.

The country held presidential and legislative elections in January 2020. President Tsai Ing-Wen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the legislative elections and Tsai herself was re-elected president. The DPP, established in 1986 during Taiwan’s transition to democracy, supports Taiwan’s independence. The main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), founded by Sun Yat-Sen, favors closer ties to the mainland, which it ruled from 1925 to 1948.

The next presidential and legislative elections are due in 2024. Relations with China are a dominant theme in Taiwan’s political debate.

Kathrin Hille, Financial Times (June 1, 2022): Taiwan’s opposition tries to claw back America’s trust: Kuomintang is acutely aware it needs Washington’s approval to return to power

Nepal General Elections: Possibly in 2022

Several sets of elections could take place in Nepal within the next year. Local elections took place on May 13, 2022.

Nepal’s politics remain turbulent following the 1996-2006 civil war waged by Maoists. The main political factions are the various Maoist parties, which tend to lean toward China geopolitically, and the social democratic Nepali Congress, which tends to lean toward India. Congress currently heads the national government.

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.

In the local elections, the ruling Congress alliance won the most seats. However, rapper (and structural engineer) Balendra “Balen” Shah won the mayoral race in Kathmandu, the first-ever independent candidate to do so.

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

Smriti Pantha, JURIST (June 2, 2022): Nepal dispatch: local elections reflect support for younger, independent candidates for office

Ram Kumar, OnlineKhabar (May 29, 2022): Can Maoists win back the trust of the people in urban Nepal?

MyRepublica (May 28, 2022): Local elections: 385 independent candidates secure victory

Tika R Pradhan, Kathmandu Post (May 28, 2022): How women candidates fared in local polls: Female deputy chiefs are fewer but there are more chiefs compared to last elections

Thailand 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. Elections are due in early 2023, but various stakeholders have been calling for early elections amid dissatisfaction with the military government, which came to power in a 2014 coup.

Most recently: Bangkok holds its first gubernatorial election in nine years on May 22.

Thailand is a long-standing United States ally. During the Cold War, each saw the other as an important bulwark against Chinese and Vietnamese aggression. However, the two countries are growing father apart as each country’s view of existential threats evolves. More

Marwaan Macan-Markar, Nikkei Asia (June 2, 2022): Is Thailand’s top trio of ex-army chiefs marching into the sunset? Military camp’s loss in Bangkok polls ups pressure on Prayuth-led ‘three Ps’

Sukegawa Seiya, The Diplomat (June 1, 2022): Can Thailand Replicate South Korean Soft Power?

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.

AFP (June 3, 2022): Myanmar junta says it will execute two prominent pro-democracy leaders

Grant Peck, AP (June 3, 2022): Myanmar court says Suu Kyi election fraud trial can continue

Andrew Nachemson and Kyaw Hsan Hlaing, Al Jazeera (June 2, 2022): Shadowy pro-military militias target Myanmar’s anti-coup movement: Lawmakers, activists killed amid concern tit-for-tat retaliatory violence spiralling out of control

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.

Rahul Kumar, Daji World (May 28, 2022): Maldives rolls out the powerful pro-India ‘Baakeenuvey’ campaign to take on China-backed parties

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

Deasy Simandjuntak, East Asia Forum (June 10, 2022): Looking ahead to Indonesia’s 2024 elections

Dr. Rizal Ramli, The Diplomat (June 3, 2022): Is Indonesia’s Grand Experiment with Democracy Coming to an End? A push to allow President Joko Widodo to run for a third term threatens to erode the foundations of the country’s multiparty system

John McBeth, Asia Times (May 29, 2022): Widodo gives a nod to his preferred successor: Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo leads in early opinion surveys but faces high-level resistance from within ruling PDI-P

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. In an attempt to stabilize the country, Rajapaksa installed his former rival Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister and called for a unity government. Wickremesinghe has served as prime minister several times before, and is broadly liberal and pro-democracy. He has called for greater ties with India, in contrast to Rajapaksa’s moves toward China.

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

Sushmitha Ramakrishnan, DW (May 30, 2022): Why young protesters in Sri Lanka are wary of traditional politics

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.

Malaysia sits in a key geopolitical location, including the crucial chokepoint of the Strait of Malacca, through which approximately 12 million barrels of oil transit each day, in addition to many other thigns.

Joseph Sipalan and Hadi Azmi, South China Morning Post (June 3, 2022): Malaysia’s PM Ismail Sabri Yaakob faces mounting pressure to call for snap polls, but will he cave?

Nile Bowie, Asia Times (June 3, 2022): Inflation politics a game of chicken in Malaysia

Adib Povera and Arfa Yunus, New Straits Times (June 1, 2022): Ismail Sabri reminds BN to unite, work hard as GE15 likely to be called ‘anytime, from now’

P Prem Kumar, Nikkei Asia (May 31, 2022): Malaysia’s Ismail Sabri resists rush to election as inflation bites: PM wants to ‘wait for right time’ to call polls, eyes GST to ease fiscal strain

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

South Korea Local Elections: June 1, 2022, following Presidential Election: March 9, 2022

South Korea held 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. The conservatives also won the local elections.

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.

Kim Jaewon, Nikkei Asia (June 2, 2022): Yoon’s conservatives sweep South Korea local elections: New president now has mandate to carry out planned reforms

Jeong-Ho Lee, Bloomberg (June 2, 2022): South Korea’s new president gets boost from provincial elections

Soo-Hyang Choi, Reuters (June 1, 2022): Teen candidates in local S.Korea races reveal youth vote’s power

Sangmi Cha, Bloomberg (May 29, 2022): A 26-Year-Old Sex-Crime Fighter Dives Into South Korean Politics

Australia Parliamentary Elections: May 21, 2022

Australia held federal parliamentary elections on May 21, 2022. Following the elections, Labor, under the leadership of Anthony Albanese, came back into power after nine years in opposition, defeating Scott Morrison’s center-right Liberal Party

Much of the debate focused on China’s growing presence in the Pacific, including a potential base in the Solomon Islands, which are very close to Australia. More

AP (June 3, 2022): China and Australia’s Dueling Pacific Tours Make Final Stops

Meg Hill, The Independent (June 3, 2022): Australia mulls a republic as Jubilee celebrations spread Down Under

Reuters (June 3, 2022): Australia PM Honours Queen Elizabeth Amid Renewed Republican Debate

Ben Westcott, Bloomberg (June 1, 2022): Australia’s History-Making Top Diplomat Faces Down Rising China: Penny Wong is the first openly LGBTQ person to hold the job and she faces an immediate policy crisis in the region

Shweta Sharma, The Independent (May 31, 2022): Australia election: Anthony Albanese secures outright majority, final results show

AFP/JIJI (May 30, 2022): China hawk Peter Dutton elected Australian opposition leader

Kath Sullivan and Jake Evans, ABC News Australia (May 30, 2022): David Littleproud elected to lead the Nationals in opposition after post-election leadership vote

Michelle Grattan, The Conversation (May 30, 2022): New Nationals leader Littleproud says ‘sensible centre’ is where elections are won

Philippines General Elections (Presidential, Legislative, and Local): May 9, 2022

Philippines held general elections on May 9, 2022. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of the notorious late former dictator, won in a landslide, raising concerns about the future of democracy in the country. Although liberal forces, led by Vice President Leni Robredo, put in a valiant effort, Marcos prevailed, returning his family to power.

This follows the 2016 victory of populist firebrand Rodrigo Duterte, who subsequently governed with an iron fist. Though Philippines presidents cannot run for a second term, critics feared that he would seek to consolidate illiberalism. His daughter, Sara Duterte, won the 2022 vice presidential election.

The Marcos family ruled the country for 21 years (including 14 years under martial law), and fell in the 1986 People Power Revolution. Nonetheless, since then, political dynasties have remained a potent force in Philippines politics.

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 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.

Ian C Sayson, Bloomberg (May 31, 2022): Marcos-Linked Stocks Post Windfall Gains in Election Month

Coconuts Manila (June 3, 2022): Imee Marcos denies accusations of historical revisionism, says family only telling ‘their side of the story’

ABC News Australia (May 27, 2022): Fear of history revisionism as Marcos family returns to power sparks panic buying of Philippines history books

JC Gotinga, Vice (May 27, 2022): Marcos Jr Is the New Philippines President. VP Sara Duterte May Be His Biggest Threat

Hong Kong Chief Executive Election: May 8, 2022 (indirect)

On May 8, 2022 (delayed from March), an Election Committee consisting of 1463 people – primarily pro-Beijing politicians and business figures – chose Hong Kong’s Chief Executive. Incumbent Carrie Lam did not run for a second term, and former security chief John Lee was the only candidate to replace her. Overall, the process has been characterized by a lack of transparency and a heavy hand from Beijing. 

This follows the flawed December 2021 legislative elections, which took place after more than a year’s delay. Only candidates deemed “patriotic” were permitted, and as a result, the legislature is now overwhelmingly pro-Beijing.

These last few elections represent the final stage of Beijing’s plan to gut Hong Kong’s democracy, despite promises of “one country, two systems” for 50 years following the 1997 handover from British rule to Beijing rule. The draconian new national security law has led to the imprisonment of pro-democracy candidates, activists, and journalists. Hong Kong has a history of vigorous debate and democratic politics, but discourse has chilled. As a result, over 89,000 residents left Hong Kong in the year after the national security law took effect. More

Trevor Filseth, National Interest (June 6, 2022): Tiananmen Square Commemorations Move to Taiwan Amid Crackdown in Hong Kong

Legu Zhang, (June 3, 2022): After Demolishing True Democracy, Xi Boasts of Hong Kong as Model

Peter Lee, Hong Kong Free Press (June 1, 2022): Hong Kong’s Democratic Party urges next leader to clarify national security boundaries, pardon 2019 protesters

Chen Zifei and Yu Fat, Radio Free Asia (May 30, 2022): Hong Kong leader-in-waiting John Lee officially anointed by Beijing

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.

Damien Kingsbury, World Politics Review (June 3, 2022): Political Maneuvering Could Be Leading Timor-Leste Down a Dead End

Ralph Jennings, Voice of America (June 2, 2022): China’s End Game for South Pacific and Why it Matters Now

Samoa General Elections: April 9, 2021

Samoa held general elections on April 9, 2021, and after a post-election roller coaster ride, a new prime minister has finally been inaugurated and approved by the courts. A new opposition party, Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST, “Faith in the one true God”), posed a new challenge to the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), which has been in power since 1982.

FAST ultimately won the knife-edge election, but the former prime minister refused to concede and the ensuing political standoff lasted more than three months. Following a court decision, FAST was declared the winner of the elections and Fiame Naomi Mataʻafa was sworn in as prime minister – the first woman to hold the office.

AFP (May 29, 2022): Samoa signs China deal amid South Pacific push

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

Papua New Guinea Parliamentary and Local Elections: Beginning July 16, 2022 (delayed following death of deputy prime minister)

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)

21votes does not necessarily agree with all of the opinions expressed in the linked articles; rather, our goal is to curate a wide range of voices. Furthermore, none of the individuals or organizations referenced have reviewed 21votes’ content. That is to say, their inclusion should not be taken to imply that they endorse us in any way. More on our approach here.

Share This