This year is shaping up as a major year for elections in Asia. Some of the region's (and the world's) biggest democracies will be going to the polls - so what should you be keeping an eye out for this year? We've rounded up some of the key races to keep an eye on.
This article was updated on 31/1/2024
Indonesia – February 14
On Valentine's Day 2024, the world's third-largest democracy and fourth-most populous nation will go to the polls.
Indonesia’s more than 200 million voters will be choosing its next president and vice-president. Incumbent President Joko Widodo (known as Jokowi) is ineligible to run again, as Indonesia has a two-term limit for the role. Three candidates have thrown their hats in the ring to replace him:
Prabowo Subianto, Defense Minister: This will be Prabowo’s third attempt at running, having lost to Jokowi in the previous two elections. He is a former general and is Indonesia’s current Minister of Defense.
Recent polls have Prabowo in the lead.
Prabowo’s pick for his running mate has drawn a lot of attention: Gibran Rakabuming Raka, mayor of Surakarta and Jokowi’s eldest son.
At only 36, Gibran would be the country's youngest candidate for the vice-presidential role - and up until recently, his age would have made him ineligible to run. Under Indonesian law, the minimum age for candidates is 40. However, before candidate registration closed, Indonesia's top court, the Constitutional Court, ruled that there could be an exception if the candidate was an elected regional official. Gibran’s nomination was quickly followed by accusations that current president Jokowi was paving the way to build a political dynasty for his family.
Ganjar Pranowo, former Central Java governor: Ganjar Pranowo, from the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), has overall been trailing just behind Prabowo in the polls.
Ganjar has served two terms as the governor of Central Java, one of Indonesia's most populous provinces and has a history as a senior politician in Indonesia's largest political party in the lower house, the Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
Anies Baswedan, former governor of Jakarta: Currently running in a distant third in polls, Anies Baswedan and his running mate Muhaimin Iskandar, chairman of the Islam-based National Awakening Party, were the first to register as candidates for the election.
He is facing an uphill battle to the role, although some analysts have suggested he may have the 2029 elections in mind, rather than success in 2024.
India – between April-May
The world’s largest democracy will also be voting in 2024 as India holds its election for the lower house of parliament (the Lok Sabha).
Current prime minister Narendra Modi is seeking his third term, alongside his Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) and so far, analysts and commentators are expecting him to stay in office.
A run of state elections in December 2023 only added to this expectation – the BJP won three out of four key state elections, indicating voter preference ahead of the general election. Modi is already in a comfortable position, having received a 76 percent approval rating in a poll in the same month.
Modi’s main opposition comes in the form of a 28-party coalition, led by the Indian National Congress party.
Sri Lanka presidential election - between September and October 2024
In recent times, Sri Lanka has been through its worst economic crisis in decades, culminating in protestors storming the residence of then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2022. Last year brought more stability for the population of 22 million, but it will undoubtedly be in voter's minds come the presidential election later in 2024.
Incumbent president Ranil Wickremesinghe will be able to campaign on his work bringing relative stability to the country, but he is not without controversy - already this year, supporters and members from his main opposition party, the United People's Power party, protested the government's tax increases.
Read more: Electoral uncertainty casts a shadow over Sri Lanka's progress - East Asia Forum
Some parts of Asia have already swung into democratic action, while others are facing more minor elections, or ones later in the year. Here's a quick look at some of these:
Taiwan – January 13, Democratic Progressive Party's Lai Ching-te elected president
Taiwan voters – roughly 19 million of them - went to the polls on January 13. Given ongoing tensions over the self-governing island’s relationship with China, its elections are always closely watched by world superpowers – particularly the US.
Taiwan’s presidents are elected for a four-year term and are eligible to run for a maximum of two terms. Incumbent president Tsai Ing-wen from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is coming to the end of her second term.
The DPP has a history of advocating for Taiwanese independence and an identity separate from China’s. This has drawn ire from Beijing. When Tsai and the DPP came to power in 2016, Beijing refused to engage with them and instead increased military action in and around the strait separating Taiwan and China.
And while China relations loom over the election, voters also considered some familiar issues closer to home, like the cost of living and housing prices.
DPP candidate Lai Ching-te (known as William Lai) was elected president.
So far, three presidential candidates have put their names forward:
Previous vice president and chair of the DPP, Lai has described himself as a ‘pragmatic worker for Taiwanese independence’ and is in favour of maintaining the status quo of Taiwan’s self-governing power established by Tsai Ing-wen. Lai's campaign has drawn a strong reaction from Beijing, with official statements warning that his election could endanger the China-Taiwan relationship.
Bangladesh – January 7
Bangladesh’s current ruling party, Awami League (AL), and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have been re-elected to power as polls close on an election marred by boycotts and political protests.
Bhutan – January 9
Bhutan, lying between India and China, were also one of the first to hold elections in Asia in 2024. Tshering Tobgay was elected as prime minister – his second time in the role after holding it from 2013 to 2018.
Tobgay is head of the liberal People’s Democratic Party.
South Korea – April 10 legislative elections
In 2022, South Korea elected Yoon Suk-yeol as president. He will hold the office for a five-year term, stepping down in 2027.
However, in April, voters will be electing South Korea’s legislative body, the National Assembly. These elections will prove to be a barometer of Yoon’s leadership – which has been flagging in approval over his year and a half in office.
- Asia Media Centre