Tibetan Exiles Vote for New Political Leader
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Monday, October 21, 2019
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Tibetan Exiles Vote for New Political Leader


By SARANSH SEHGAL Monday, March 21, 2011


In this photo taken on March 14, 2011, the Dalai Lama gives religious talks at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharmsala, India. (Photo: AP)
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DHARAMSALA, India—Days after the Dalai Lama announced his desire to retire from politics, Tibetan exiles voted on March 20 to elect a new prime minister to whom the Dalai Lama will hand over his political powers.


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Monks, nuns and ordinary Tibetans voted for a successor to the current prime minister, Samdhong Rinpoche, who has twice held office.

"As many as 83,399 exiled Tibetans 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 the Tibetan parliament-in-exile," said Jamphel Choesang, the chief election commissioner.

The results of the election will be declared on April 27.

All three candidates for prime minister—Lobsang Sangay, Tenzin Namgyal Tethong and Tashi Wangd—are younger, Western-educated and well known to the Tibetan diaspora.

Lobsang Sangay, a Harvard scholar born in a Tibetan refugee camp in Darjeeling in the northeastern region of India who has never visited his homeland, said that there is hunger in the community to "see the younger generation taking over the leadership."

International Tibetan support groups have praised the election.

“The March 20 Tibetan election for the chief executive of the Tibetan government-in-exile and Tibetan parliament-in-exile is an historic one,” said Mary Beth Markey, the president of the International Campaign for Tibet, in a statement.

The Dalai Lama, who is traditionally considered both the political and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, first announced his intention to step down from his political role on March 10 during a speech commemorating the Tibetans' failed uprising against Chinese occupation
.

“I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power. Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect…. My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility. It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run,” the Dalai Lama told Tibetans and Western supporters gathered at his Dharamsala, India base.

On March 14, the Dalai Lama sent a formal letter to the Tibetan parliament-in-exile in which he explained his decision and asked MPs to amend the constitution of the Tibetan government-in-exile in order to free him from any political responsibility.  

The Tibetan parliament-in-exile emotionally debated the issue during the following week and on March 18 passed a resolution asking the Dalai Lama to reconsider his decision. However, the Dalai Lama soon rejected the plea and remained determined to quit his political role.

“His Holiness has turned down the request, saying his decision was final,” said Chimme Chhoekyapa, the 75 year-old Nobel laureate’s secretary.

“If they [lawmakers] come tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, then I will tell them no. An institution that is the head of both temporal and spiritual—that must end, that is outdated…. Rule by spiritual leaders—by kings or rajas—is now outdated. I do not want to be like [ousted Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak,” the Dalai Lama said at a news conference, marking his first public statements since the March 10 announcement.

US Senator Tammy Baldwin applauded the Dalai Lama's decision.
 
“At a time when despots cling to power as their people yearn for democracy, the Dalai Lama's willful ceding of power is a tribute to his vision to fulfill the aspirations of the Tibetan people and should inspire others around the world,” Baldwin was quoted as saying.

In contrast, Beijing downplayed the Dalai Lama’s March 10 retirement statement.

 “He has talked often about retirement in the past few years,” said Jiang Yu, a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a March 10 press conference. “I think these are tricks to deceive the international community. The Dalai Lama is a political exile under a religious cloak, now engaged in activities aimed at splitting China. The government-in-exile is an illegal political organization.



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