Harvard scholar is frontrunner for Tibetan PM-in-exile

Friday, November 12, 2010

DHARAMSALA - Lobsang Sangey, a senior fellow of Harvard Law School, Friday emerged as the frontrunner during the primary poll to nominate candidates for the Kalon Tripa or ‘prime minister’ of the Tibetan government-in-exile here, an official said.

“Sangey got the maximum number of votes in the Oct 3 primary elections for the Kalon Tripa. He polled 22,489 votes,” Jamphel Choesang, chief election commissioner of the polls, told IANS.

Choesang said the results were compiled after data was received from polling booths in 56 locations in India, Nepal, Bhutan, European countries, the US and Australia.

“This time the poll percentage was 61 percent,” he said.

Diplomat Tenzin Namgyal Tethong, who is also settled in the US, got the second highest of 12,319 votes. The lone woman candidate, Dolma Gyari, was third but with just 2,733 votes.

Dolma is deputy speaker in the parliament-in-exile.

Choesang said the votes polled in Nepal and Bhutan were not counted in the primary round.

“More than 1,000 votes were wasted on account of 18 ballot boxes seized by the Nepal police at polling booths in Kathmandu. Similarly, the Bhutanese government had ordered Tibetan authorities there not to send the ballot papers to the election commission in Dharamsala. All 613 votes cast in Bhutan were also wasted,” he said.

After the primary elections, the general elections will be held March 20 next year along with elections for the 46 members of the parliament-in-exile based in this Himachal Pradesh hill town.

During the run-up to the primary election campaign, many Tibetans posed questions on the internet to the prospective candidates.

One of the questions put to Sangey was: “What do you see as the key responsibilities of the next Kalon Tripa?”

He replied: “First we have to define whether the Kalon Tripa is a leader or an administrator. If Kalon Tripa is simply an administrator, then experience, both institutional and personal, is a must. However, His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) himself has stressed, as our democracy progresses, the Kalon Tripa should assume more political leadership…”

“For the Kalon Tripa as a leader, the primary responsibility is to resolve the Chinese occupation and alleviate the challenges faced by our brave compatriots in Tibet. Secondly, it is to gain support from the international community and to raise the profile of the Tibetan government which is rather weak…,” Sangey said.

“Lastly, the Kalon Tripa must be cognizant of the aspirations and anxieties of Tibetans inside and outside Tibet, and must ensure the welfare of the exile community…”

Incumbent Samdhong Rinpoche became the first directly elected prime minister for a five-year term in September 2001 after the Dalai Lama called for a directly-elected political leader of the exiles.

Rinpoche cannot re-contest as the Tibetan charter bars any individual from holding the office for more than two terms.

As the Dalai Lama has turned 75, the Tibetans attach greater importance to the upcoming general elections as they feel the major political leadership of the government-in-exile is going to rest on the shoulders of the prime minister.

The Dalai Lama and his supporters fled Tibet and took refuge in India when Chinese troops moved in and took control of Lhasa (capital of Tibet) in 1959.

He has since headed the Tibetan government-in-exile here.

Some 140,000 Tibetans now live in exile, over 100,000 of them in different parts of India. Over six million Tibetans live in Tibet.

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