Asia This Week: June 17, 2022

June 17, 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.

Himeji Castle in Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan, dating to 1333. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Bernard Gagnon (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

Japan House of Councillors Elections: July 10, 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 10, 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.

Much of the bigger political debate is focused on Japan’s global role and military power. For centuries, Japan was a great power, but it adopted a pacifist constitution following World War II. As a U.S. ally and democracy, Japan plays a key role in the region, and increasingly in world affairs.

Kyodo News (June 16, 2022): Japan ruling party vows to boost nation’s defense in election pledges

Kyodo News (June 15, 2022): Fumio Kishida to be 1st Japan leader to attend NATO summit

Titli Basu, The Diplomat (June 13, 2022): Kishida Vision for Peace: Japan’s Global Leadership Gambit: Is Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio proving to be as consequential a global statesman as his former boss, Abe Shinzo?

Stratfor (June 13, 2022): In the Face of Growing Threats, Japan Ramps Up Defense Spending

Saibal Dasgupta, Voice of America (June 10, 2022): Japan’s Kishida Vows Expanded Security Role in Asia

Mike Yeo, Defense News (June 10, 2022): Japan to continue increasing defense spending over next five years

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.

Arun Sharma, Indian Express (June 18, 2022): There’s strong possibility of J&K polls by the end of this year: Rajnath

PTI (June 15, 2022): Indian Presidential election 2022 | Nomination process begins

Nepal General Elections: Possibly in 2022

Several sets of elections could happen 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

Chandra D. Bhatta, Observer Research Foundation (June 15, 2022): Nepal’s political and economic transition: In the face of growing domestic turmoil, how will Nepal manage geopolitical challenges that are brewing in the region?

Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu Post (June 15, 2022): Poll body eyeing general, provincial elections in November in one phase

Nihar K. Nayak, Annapurna Express (June 12, 2022): China’s new troubles in Nepal

Fiji Parliamentary Elections: By January 2023 (earlier elections possible)

Fiji must hold parliamentary elections by January 2023, but the election could be called earlier. 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.

Meanwhile, as with many Pacific nations, China has been ramping up its presence in Fiji.

Marian Faa, ABC News Australia (June 16, 2022): Fiji’s former coup leaders Frank Bainimarama and Sitiveni Rabuka to face off in tense election battle

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.

The Irrawaddy (June 17, 2022): Myanmar Unites in Demand to Spare Pro-Democracy Leaders

Radio Free Asia (June 16, 2022): Political prisoner executions would backfire on Myanmar junta, say analysts

David Hutt, Asia Times (June 15, 2022): Shadow Myanmar government gaining European friends: Democracies asked to arm anti-junta defense forces the way support has been proactively offered to Ukraine

Lisa Zengarini, Vatican News (June 15, 2022): Myanmar’s Bishops call for respect of human life in ongoing conflict

AFP (June 13, 2022): ‘No Chance’ Myanmar Polls Will Be Free and Fair: US Official

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.

N. Sathiya Moorthy, Observer Research Foundation (June 13, 2022): Maldives: Solih declares re-election bid

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 politics

As researcher Evan A. Laksmana notes: “Indonesia could tilt the strategic balance in the Indo-Pacific. It’s the largest archipelagic state in the world and sits at the heart of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The country’s growing economic power, tradition of regional leadership, and control over critical sea lanes seem to predestine it to be a strategic fulcrum in the era of U.S.-Chinese great-power competition.” However, Indonesia has not yet taken a side, instead maintaining “pragmatic equidistance” between the U.S. and China. More

Channel News Asia (June 15, 2022): Indonesia’s Jokowi reshuffles Cabinet for the third time in his current term

Erwida Maulia, Nikkei Asia (June 14, 2022): Indonesia kicks off process of electing new president: Central Java governor tops latest surveys in vote slated for February 2024

NHK (June 14, 2022): Indonesia kicks off preparations for 2024 election

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

Cambodia Local Elections: June 5, 2022 and Parliamentary Elections: July 2023 (due)

Cambodia held local elections on June 5, 2022 and is due to hold 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 began gaining ground, reorganizing itself into the Candlelight Party. In the June local elections, the party made some gains, winning around 22 percent of the vote. Opposition activists hope that will translate into a stronger result in the 2023 elections.

Chanrith Ngin, Fulcrum Singapore (June 16, 2022): Having it Both Ways? Cambodia’s Superpower Balancing Act

Radio Free Asia (June 16, 2022): Split between opposition leaders could solidify Hun Sen’s rule in Cambodia

AFP (June 16, 2022): US: Mass Conviction Is Latest ‘Alarming’ Action by Cambodia

Sam Rainsy, The Diplomat (June 15, 2022): Cambodia’s Local Elections Have Ended Hun Sen’s One-Party System

Andrew Nachemson, Foreign Policy (June 15, 2022): Hun Sen Stands in the Way of His Own Succession Plan: Cambodia’s prime minister has outmaneuvered political opponents and groomed his oldest son for power, but does he know when to walk away?

Sopheng Cheang, AP (June 15, 2022): Cambodian ruling party sues politician for criticizing vote

AFP (June 14, 2022): Cambodia convicts opposition figures in mass trial

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 appears to be changing under Yoon.

Yosuke Onchi, Nikkei Asia (June 16, 2022): South Korea opposition wars with itself after local elections: Democratic Party’s dismal performance provokes hope for political realignment

Daniel Sneider, East Asia Forum (June 13, 2022): Yoon’s election is a strategic boon for Biden

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

Rod McGuirk, AP (June 17, 2022): Australian minister visits Solomons to counter China

Rod McGuirk, AP (June 12, 2022): China’s envoy to Australia says 2 nations at ‘new juncture’

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.

Michael E. Miller and Regine Cabato, Washington Post (June 16, 2022): As a dictator’s son rises to power, disinformation fractures Filipino families


Patricia O’Brien, The Diplomat (June 14, 2022): China’s Pacific Push Is Already Remaking the Region: After a whirlwind of visits and agreements, where does the Pacific region stand?

Asia/Pacific Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

Japan House of Councillors Elections: July 10, 2022 (half of upper house at stake)

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

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

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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