On The Radar: 2023 elections in Asia

What are some of the key elections and leadership changes happening across Asia’s political landscape in 2023? AMC rounds up some highlights:  

Thailand will be one to watch, with its general election on May 7. Thailand’s voting history has often featured coups and has been dominated by the country’s military and royalty. The current Prime Minister is Prayut Chan-o-cha, an ex-army officer who came to power in a 2014 coup. He has promised to run again for the role, although if he’s elected, he will only be in the role for two more years due to term limits.  

Voters in Thailand are often roughly divided into two camps – older royalists and younger pro-democracy groups. Since 2020, pro-democracy activists have been leading anti-government protests and coming up to this election, polls have shown support for the military PM falling and support rising for opposition parties, such as the Pheu Thai Party and the Move Forward Party.  

Pakistan’s National Assembly is due to dissolve on 13 August at the latest, with a general election due within 90 days. 2023 will be a year of political turmoil, following an intense 2022. In April 2022, then-PM Imran Khan was ousted from office after a no-confidence vote. In his place stepped opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif.

Khan was even banned from politics in October 2022, but he is entering the election year campaigning as his lawyers fight the charges preventing him from running.

Bangladesh and Singapore will have presidential elections this year – both have a prime minister as the head of government and a president as the head of state. 

Bangladesh will hold its presidential election on February 19 this year, with its general election due in a year’s time in early 2024. The current president is Abdul Hamid, who was first elected in 2013 and is nearing the end of his second term. He is ineligible for a third term. A new president will be elected by a 350-strong parliament and is usually from the majority party – in this case, the left-leaning Awami League. The current prime minister, Sheikh Hasina will choose a candidate, but has yet to announce any names ahead of nominations closing February 12.

Singapore is due to have its next presidential election by September 13. The current president is Halimah Yacob, the first woman in the role, who is coming up to the end of her six-year term. She will be eligible to run again, although other candidates have so far been slow to put their names forward. 

Myanmar and Cambodia are also due to have general elections in 2023 but it's widely recoginsed that neither country is likely to have free and fair elections. 

Myanmar has been under junta rule since a military coup in February 2021. Then-leader Aung San Suu Kyi and politicians in her National League for Democracy (NLD) government were arrested and thousands of protestors have been detained. Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has pledged that a general election will happen in August 2023, but this has been met with much scepticism

Meanwhile, elections in Cambodia are held every five years with the next election date set for July 23. Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power as prime minister since 1985 and as Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch put it, “Prime Minister Hun Sen left no stone unturned in his efforts to restrict rights and ensure total political control heading into the mid-2023 national elections”.

And while we're only just kicking off 2023, it will be a politically charged year for both Indonesia and India, who will be holding their general elections in 2024. 

Further reading:

Elections to watch in 2023 - Foreign Policy 
Why democracy in Southeast Asia will worsen in 2023 - Council on Foreign Relations 

- Asia Media Centre