Tibetans vote to elect Sikyong and members of Parliament

DHARAMSALA 11 April: Exiled Tibetans across the world cast their vote in the preliminary elections of the Sikyong or political leader of the Tibetan people and members of the 17th Tibetan Parliament in exile today.

Tibetans in Dharamsala, the exile residence of Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile-officially known as the Central Tibetan Administration,(CTA) came to the polling booths to choose their future leaders.

A total of sixteen polling booths, six more than the last cycle, were set up in various places in Dharamsala to facilitate maximum participation from the voters amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that the world continues to battle.

Polling station at Gangchen Kyishong.

Wangdu Tsering Pesur, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of the Central Tibetan Administration cast his vote at Gangchen Kyishong, the central Tibetan secretariat.

He described suffrage both as a right and civic responsibility of Tibetans and further urged them to turn up and vote with the common good of Tibet in their mind.

The CEC disclosed that Tibetans under quarantine won’t be able to vote as arrangements can’t be made for them again at the final elections as well owing to the rules and the risk of contracting COVID-19.

On 8th April, the Covid- 19 Task Force of the CTA said during the committee’s weekly briefing that a total of 208 people under quarantine, of which 137 are reported to be at home quarantine while 71 are under institutional quarantine.

Former Speaker of the Tibetan parliament Penpa Tsering and Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang are contesting for the top job of the CTA while twenty candidates each from the three provinces of Tibet, four candidates each from the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, traditional Bon religion, North America and Europe, and three candidates from Asia and Australasia (excluding India, Nepal and Bhutan) contesting to the election of 17th Tibetan parliament.

President Sangay and his cabinet at Men-Tsee-Khang polling station.

The incumbent political head of the Tibetan people, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay who is at the tail end of his office tenure declared the poll day as a proud day and that sends a strong message directly to Beijing.

“There is no democracy in China and Tibetans in Tibet don’t enjoy the freedom but under the great leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama we in exiles have been given this gift of democracy,” he said.

“So, today is a proud day where Tibetans from all over the world come together to celebrate, participate and embrace the democracy to show that we are refugees for a political reason but as a human being, we are as capable as good as any other citizens of a democratic country.”

President Sangay, who was flanked by his Cabinet ministers at the Men-Tsee-Khang polling station concluded by saying that they wish their successors the very best and that they outperform them.

“We wish the upcoming leadership the very best and that they do much better than us.”

It is only the third time that exiled Tibetans are directly choosing their political leader since the devolution of political authority by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2011.

A total of 83079 exiled Tibetans spread across 26 countries have registered to vote in the final elections to choose the future Sikyong or political leader of the Tibetan people and members of the 17th Tibetan Parliament-in-exile today.

The Tibetan parliament consists of 45 members: ten members each from U-Tsang, Do-tod and Do-med, the three traditional provinces of Tibet, two members each from the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the traditional Bon faith, two members each from Europe and North America and a member representing Tibetans in Asia and Australasia (excluding India, Nepal and Bhutan).

Though the local election commissions are required to announce their respective election results post counting of the votes, the Central Election Commission based in Dharamsala will announce the official result of the final election on 14 May.

Polling station at Men-Tsee-Khang
Polling station at TIPA.

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