Tibetans vote to elect new prime minister-in-exile

Tibetans hope the new leader would eventually become the new face of struggle for freedom in China.

Updated: Mar 20, 2011, 14:22 PM IST

Dharamsala: Thousands of Tibetans
across the world on Sunday voted to elect the prime minister of
the Tibetan government-in-exile, an exercise that may usher in
a transition in the community`s leadership following the Dalai
Lama`s "flat refusal" to reconsider his decision to retire as
its political head.

"As many as 83,399 exiled Tibetan settled in India,
Nepal, Bhutan, the United States, European countries,
Australia, Japan, Russia and other countries were eligible to
exercise their franchise to elect the Prime minister and 43
members of Tibetan parliament-in-exile," Jamphel Choesang,
chief election commissioner, said.

The one-day election has aroused great interest this
time, as it would be for the first time that an elected prime
minister would function as democratic head sans possible
active guidance of the 75-year-old Dalai Lama.

The five-year tenure of the prime minister would be
significant as it could mark a transition from "one-man
leadership" of the Dalai Lama to a democratically elected
government of exiled Tibetans.

The Dalai Lama, a Nobel peace prize winner, has been
both the spiritual and the political head of the Tibetan
government-in-exile which he had founded after fleeing to
India in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule
in Tibet.

But he had on March 10 announced his decision to step
down as political head of Tibetan government-in-exile.

Tibetan officials said that the Dalai Lama, who will
continue to be the spiritual head of the community, will not
exercise his franchise in the election.

The result of the election would be declared on April

The three candidates in the fray for the post of the
prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, which is
known as `Kalon Tripa` in Tibetan language, are -- Lobsang
Sangay, Tenzin Namgyal Tethong and Tashi Wangdi.

Lobsang Sangey is a senior fellow of Harvard Law School,
whereas Tenzin Namgyal Tethong is a diplomat also settled in
the US. Tashi Wangdi was the Dalai Lama`s representative in
Brussels, New York and New Delhi.

Tibetan officials maintained that the main contest was
between the US-based candidates Sangey and Namgyal. Sangey had
emerged as the front-runner during the October 3, 2010 primary
poll for nomination of prime ministerial candidates.

Sangey got the maximum number of 22,489 votes while
Namgyal got the second highest of 12,319 votes in the primary
elections that recorded 61 per cent polling.

The lone woman candidate, Dolma Gyari, who was poor
third with just 2,733 votes, opted out of the race for the
final elections. Dolma is deputy speaker in the