The election commission of the Central Tibetan Administration (the Tibetan government-in-exile) announced the schedule for the two-phase polls to elect its ‘Sikyong’ (political leader) and members of parliament on Wednesday.
The 14th ‘Kashag’ (cabinet) of the exiled government completed its five-year term in April 2016. “The preliminary election for the Sikyong and members of the 16th Tibetan parliament is scheduled for October 18, 2015 and the final elections will be held on March 20, 2016,” Sonam Choephel Shosur, chief of the election body, said.
The incumbent Sikyong, Lobsang Sangay, became the first Tibetan to be elected leader of the exiled community after the Dalai Lama devolved his political authority in 2011. Sangay and members of the 15th parliament are ending their five-year terms in March 2016.
Announcing the new rules regarding poll campaign expenses and activities, the election commission also capped the electoral expenditure of candidates. “The total campaign expenses for a Sikyong candidate should not exceed `8 lakh and the campaign expenses for a candidate for the Tibetan parliament-in-exile should not exceed `3 lakh. All campaign activities should cease two days before the final election day,” Shosur said.
The election commission urged candidates to submit their names and details to their local election body before announcing their candidacy. “We also urge all candidates to refrain from excessive campaigning in sensitive areas such as Nepal, where the locals are recovering from a severe natural tragedy,” Shosur added.
The 2016 general election will elect the fourth directly elected Sikyong (who was earlier styled ‘Kalon Tripa’) and the 16th Tibetan parliament-in-exile.
The next exiled parliament will comprise 45 members with ten representatives each from the three traditional Tibetan provinces, two representatives each from the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the Bon sect, two representatives from North and South America, two representatives from Europe and Africa, and one representative from Australia and Asia (excluding India, Nepal and Bhutan).
First candidate throws hat in ring
With the election process kicking off the first to announce his candidacy was Tashi Wangdu, 43, CEO of the Federation of Tibetan Cooperative Societies. Wangdu, who graduated in international relations from New York University, said he was “inspired to stand for the Sikyong’s office “given the urgent need to reestablish the dialogue with China” for the peaceful resolution of the Tibet issue.
“Better resources and facilities, improved education and more opportunities for young people and speedy economic development are some of the urgent requirements of the exiled Tibetan community,” said Wangdu, who has earlier served as the exiled government’s representative in South India in Bangalore, in its parliamentary secretariat and as the Dalai Lama's representative in Pretoria, South Africa and New Delhi.