With Tibet's exiled spiritual leader Dalai Lama refusing to relent his stance to renounce his political authority, elections were held on Sunday to elect Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) and Chit hue, Parliament gained more significance as large number of exile Tibetans turned out to elect their future leadership.
Realizing that elections were crucial for the future of Tibetan movement, Tibetans from different walks of life made long queues outside polling stations in Dharamsala and other settlements spread across the country. From the enthusiasm amongst the Tibetans it is becoming clear that Dalai Lama's recent announcement has led to "political" awakening amongst Tibetans exiles that over years have shown little interest in these elections held to elect parliament and Kalon Tripa – who would now be considered - most powerful political leader after Dalai Lama.
"Tibetan people had shown great interest during the preliminary round of elections that concluded in October but this time owing to Dalai Lama's announcement to retire from politics, enthusiasm was more amongst Tibetan exiles as it has now become their responsibility to elect the best leader" observes Tenzing Choedon, National Director of Student for Free Tibet.
Apart from 18 different Tibetan settlements spread across India, polling was conducted in Tibetan communities based in India, North America, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Austria, Poland, Russia, Japan, Taiwan and Australia. A total of 83,399 Tibetans voters are registered.
Tibetan chief election commissioner, Jhamphel Choesang too observes the voters' interest was more this time as compared to the preliminary round of elections that witnessed about 60% turnout, while some ballot boxes were seized by police in the Tibetan settlements in Nepal.
There were nearly half a dozen candidates in the fray but they withdrew their nomination after they failed to secure expected amount of votes. Deputy speaker of the Tibetan parliament in exile Dolma Gyari was one of the prominent candidates who had announced from the elections for Kalon Tripa.
Dr Lobsang Sangey, 43 a favorite amongst Tibetan youth had secured a considerable 10,000 votes lead over his closest rival former Tibetan bureaucrat Tenzing Thethong Namgyal, 63, now in Stanford University. Tashi Wangdi, who was Dalai Lama’s representative in Brussels, is also running for the post. Wangdi has remained a Kalon (Minister) in the Tibetan government in exile.
Current incumbent professor Samdhong Rinpoche a renowned Hindi scholar, Samdhong Rinpoche who was elected directly twice had opted to stay out from the elections owing to provisions of Tibetan charter that does not allow any elected Prime Minister run for the third term.
Though the final results for the elections would be announced in the last week of April but the its likely main contest remains between Dr Lobsang Sangey and Tenzing Thethong Namgyal who have left no stone unturned to outscore each other on different platform during the hectic campaigning that lasted six months. Both Sangey and Thethong have strong views about the future of the Tibetan movement and have announced to shape up the course in accordance with the emerging situation.
Dalai Lama who left Tibet in 1959 after Chinese troops invaded Lhasa had set up his own Tibetan government-in–exile ( Central Tibetan Administration) has suggested middle way path for seeking autonomy for China controlled Tibet, but the radicals differ and support independence. Ballots were also casted to elect 44 members for the Tibetan parliament.