Amidst uncertainty over Tibet's future, the Tibetan refugees on Sunday turned out in large number to vote in preliminary round of elections to choose future leadership that will have crucial responsibility to lead Tibetan movement, since aging – 75 year –old- Dalai Lama had signaled his retirement.
Voting for pre -polls scheduled to select candidates for Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) and for 44 members Tibetan parliament began on high note, as Tibetan refugees made beelines at booth when polling began at 9 in the morning. Those candidates who manage to secure 33 percent of the total votes will be qualified to enter general elections slated for March next year.
This year a total number of 79,449 Tibetans are registered as voters in comparision to 2006 when there were 72,771 voters. The elections were held in all the settlements in India.
Unlike previous election, which witnessed low enthusiasm recording 48 per cent turn out; voter's response in the preliminary rounds this time was overwhelming, particularly from the younger generations.
Tibetans from different walks of life including students, bureaucrats, women and monastic community could be seen jostling with green books (registration books) to cast their votes. Tibetan leaders expressed happiness over crowd's hording at the polling booths. "I am glad to see Tibetan crowds at polling station" the current Tibetan Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche who cast his vote at booths outside Tibetan secretariat told Hindustan Times.
Rinpoche has remained two time prime minister; he did not contest elections this time owing to provisions of Tibetan charter, which bars anyone for running for third consecutive time in row. With over one dozen candidates in fray for Prime Minister, the prominent include Harvard University Professor Lobsang Sangay, Tibetan diplomat Tenzin Tethong Namgyal, former President of Tibetan Youth Congress Tsetan Norbu, Speaker Pempa Tsering, Deputy- Speaker Dolma Gyari is lone only woman candidate.
Numbers of voters were more at the polling booth located at premises of main Buddhist temple located outside Dalai Lama's residence in Mcleodganj. After Tibetan struggled to make their way to the booths, officers on duty called for Indian police to restore order.
Tibet's exiled leader- the Dalai Lama, who drew worlds attention to the vexed Tibetan issue, did not caste his vote for nominating either the parliamentarians or selecting candidates for coveted post of Prime Minister.
"On this issue we cannot comment anything," said Tenzing Taklha, joint secretary at Dalai Lama's private office.
Dalai Lama Tenzing Gyatso , Tibet’s temporal and Spiritual head had set up Tibetan -government-in-exile in after he fled Lhasa in 1959- he describes himself semi retired.
Tibetan had been attaching greater significance to the elections as they believe the future leadership has more crucial role to play in taking forward the Tibetan movement, as there growing fear that Dalai Lama's death would create a void in Tibetan polity. Dalai Lama, who received Nobel Prize for peace for advocating Gandhian philosophy of Non-violence, is still indecisive about his succession. Chinahas already shown up its intention for picking up next Dalai Lama, even though Tenzing Gyatso says that his re incarnate would be born in free country. Dalai Lama seeks greater autonomy for Chinese controlled Tibet but communist regime refuses to soften its stance even after nine rounds of talks with his emissaries.
The results of the preliminary rounds would be compiled after a month since the ballots would be collected from Tibetan settlements all over India, Bhutan, and Nepal and from North America.
"It will take time to compile the results, but the reports say that response to the elections had been overwhelming, " said Jhamphel Chosang Chief Election commissioner in Central Tibetan administration.
Past few months have witnessed robust election campaign from Tibetans in exile.