DHARAMSALA, Oct 19: Tibetans across the world cast their vote in the preliminary elections held on Oct 18 to choose the future Sikyong or political leader of the Tibetan people and members of the 16th Tibetan Parliament in exile.
Thousands of Tibetans in Dharamsala, the exile residence of the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the seat of the Tibetan government in exile (officially known as the Central Tibetan Administration) came to the polling booths to choose their future leaders. A total of ten polling booths were set up in various places in Dharamsala to facilitate maximum participation from the voters.
It is only the second time that the Tibetans are directly choosing their leadership since the devolution of political authority by His Holiness the Dalai Lama since 2011.
The incumbent Sikyong, Dr Lobsang Sangay is among five contenders vying for the post of Sikyong, the top political post. The others are Penpa Tsering, current Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in exile; Lukar Jam, a former political prisoner; Tashi Wangdue, CEO of Federation of Tibetan Cooperatives in India; and Tashi Topgyal, an ex-army. Except for Lukar Jam, whose political stand is complete independence of Tibet from China, the remaining four candidates have a common political stand of seeking autonomy within the framework of People’s Republic of China popularly known as Umey Lam or Middle Way Approach.
With a bill unanimously passed in the Tibetan Parliament to elect a member of Parliament from Australasia and Asia, which include Australia, New Zealand and Asia (excluding India, Nepal and Bhutan), forty five members will be elected to the 16th Tibetan Parliament in exile. The current or the 15th Tibetan Parliament in exile has 44 members- ten each from the three traditional Tibetan provinces of U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo; two members each from the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism and Bon religion, and two members each from Europe and North America.
The final elections will be held on March 20, 2016.