Tibetans vote to elect political leader, parliamentarians

Dharamsala, Oct 18 (IANS) Tibetan exiles across the world on Sunday voted to select their nominees for the post of ‘Sikyong’ or prime minister and as members of the parliament-in-exile based here.

Tibetans came out in strong numbers to vote in the preliminary elections that will select candidates for the final stage to be held on March 20 next year, a statement by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) said.

Those securing at least 33 percent votes in Sunday’s polling will be eligible to contest in the final stage of election.

In India, voting took place, among other places, at Dharamsala, Darjeeling, Dehradun and Delhi.

In Dharamsala, polling stations were set up at 10 locations. Tibetan residents came out in good numbers to cast their votes.

Election officials said that besides Tibetan settlements within India, elections were also held in Bhutan, North America, Europe and several other countries across the world where the Tibetan diaspora has settled down after the Dalai Lama fled Tibet fearing persecution by China.

The 2016 general elections are the second direct elections for electing the Tibetan leadership since complete devolution of political authority by the Dalai Lama in 2011.

Incumbent ‘Sikyong’, or prime minister, Lobsang Sangay is also in the race to get re-elected, as his five-year term will expire in August next year.

Lukar Jam, a former political prisoner in China who escaped to India from Tibet, is also contesting the post of ‘Sikyong’.

He believes in full independence for his homeland rather than the policy of the Tibetan government-in-exile, which is advocating autonomy within China.

The other prominent candidates are Tashi Wangdu, CEO of the Federation of Tibetan Cooperative Societies, and Tibetan parliament speaker Penpa Tsering.

The general elections will elect the fourth political leader — also known as prime minister — and the 16th Tibetan parliament-in-exile, comprising 45 members.

The 47-year-old Harvard educated Sangay is the first political successor to Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Since assuming power in August 2011, grant of more autonomy in Tibet “within the Chinese constitution”, creation of awareness on Tibet and education of the exiled youth are among crucial issues before Sangay.

He took over the reins of the government-in-exile from monk-scholar Samdhong Rinpoche, who held the post for 10 years.

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