Tibetans cast vote for Parliament, to elect new Sikyong

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Dr Lobsang Sangay casts his vote in Tibetan elections (Photo: Tenzin Jigme Taydeh/@NetTibet)

Tibetans across the world began voting on Sunday to elect their Sikyong—the President of Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and 45 members of the Tibetan Parliament in exile. Polling is taking place in 26 countries, including Dharamsala—the Tibetan headquarters in India.

This is the second round of the two-phase election that will elect the representatives of the CTA. The first phase had taken place on January 3, 2021. The results from the second round will pave the way for the appointment of a democratically-elected Tibetan leader on May 14.

This is the third election that the Tibetan exiles will participate in. They had earlier elected Lobsang Sangay as the President for two consecutive terms. The rules allow for a third term to be given to Sangay.

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual head of the Tibetans, himself pushed for democracy among the Tibetan community. Traditionally, he himself chose representatives of the CTA. The idea behind the elections is to provide a practical experience to the Tibetan community to understand electoral and democratic governance.

Outside of Tibet, there are nearly 1.3 lakh Tibetans in India and across the world, of which nearly one lakh are in India and the others scattered in the US, several European countries, Australia and Canada. The conduct of elections across 26 countries is supervised by the Tibetan Election Commission, which allows any Tibetan over the age of 18 to vote in the elections.

The second round of elections has Penpa Tsering and Aukatsang Kelsang Dorjee as the two main contenders for the position of the Sikyong. The first round, held in January, had eight candidates.

The electoral system among the Tibetan community, coupled with internet platforms, has allowed for debate and questioning among the Tibetans, particularly among the younger generation. They have been stronger and more vociferous calls for support to the Tibetan people inside China where they face human rights violations from Chinese authorities and constant surveillance.

The past few months have turned out to be significant for the Tibetan people. It is not just because of the elections but also because the US has warmed up to their cause and is extending support. In a significant departure, the US gave recognition to the Tibetan government in exile. Senior American officials also held a meeting with Sangay in an official capacity—giving a big boost to the Tibetan struggle for independence from China.

The US has called for Chinese non-interference in the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and the appointment of a successor to the revered leader. For the first time it has allocated a fund to support the Tibetan struggle. The fund has scholarships for Tibetan students, support for the Tibetan community in China as well as in India and also to provide support to media outlets writing on the Tibetan situation.Tibetans across the world began voting on Sunday to elect their Sikyong—the President of Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and 45 members of the Tibetan Parliament in exile. Polling is taking place in 26 countries, including Dharamsala—the Tibetan headquarters in India.

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