DHARAMSALA, 4 Jan: After an official appointed by the local election commissioner in Ladakh to assist illiterate and elderly Tibetans to fill up their ballot paper was caught engaging in improper or dishonest practice, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of the Central Tibetan Administration(CTA) assured that the reported election irregularity has been corrected.
Sonam Phelgyal, an official appointed by the local election commissioner of Ladakh’s camp no 8 was caught filling up the name of his own choice of Sikyong candidate instead of Yeshi Tenpa, an illiterate Tibetan voter who sought his assistance. The irregularity was witnessed by camp no 9 Gyakpon(camp leader) who was observing the elections.
Confirming the incident as an “unfortunate event,” Wangdu Tsering Pesur, the CEC of CTA said that the matter was reported to the commission by the local election commissioner around 2 pm yesterday, following which he said that the commission conducted a meeting and issued directives to immediately stop the exercise, cancel the votes cast and to re-conduct it immediately.
“Around 2:30 pm on the same day, around 192 voters who had voted at the polling station had their votes recast successfully and the matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of the public, as well as both the local and the CEC’s office, ” he said.
He responded in the affirmative that there will be retributions for the person at fault.
The CEC, however, did not confirm the names of the two candidates involved in the matter and said that “he has no idea about who Yeshi Tenpa’s actual candidate was and to whom Sonam Phelgyal changed his vote to.
On the video and audio clips over the matter being widely circulated across the social media platform, the CEC said that he senses an intention to disrupt the community behind the act.
The CEC said that the 2021 general election of the exiled Tibetans are being conducted under the most difficult circumstances owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions in place to contain and prevent the spread of the virus.
While the pandemic has forced the CEC to make special arrangements with respect to the election rules of the CTA by preponing and extending voting dates, he says that Nepal poses the most difficult challenges.
Authorities in Nepal detained five Tibetans including a journalist and confiscated ballot boxes as the elections were secretly held there.
The two earlier election cycles were also marred with difficulties that Tibetans and rights groups say stem from Nepal’s cosying up to China.
“Special arrangements were made to ensure that the election is being held successfully in Nepal,” he said.
Over eighty thousand exiled Tibetans from over thirty countries across the world have registered to cast their vote in the preliminary elections held on Sunday to choose the future Sikyong or political leader of the Tibetan people and members of the 16th Tibetan Parliament-in-exile.
The CEC expressed his hope that the situation will improve during the final elections to be held on 11 April 2021 and urged the general public for their continued participation to exercise their suffrage with the greater good of Tibet and Tibetans in their mind.