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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Tibetan netizens debate their prime ministerial candidates

October 4, 2010

Sify
October 1, 2010

Dharamsala, Oct 2 (IANS) -- The Tibetan
cyberspace is abuzz with activity ahead of
Sunday's primary elections to shortlist
candidates for the 'prime minister' and
parliament of the Tibetan government-in-exile here.

The primary elections to nominate candidates for
the Kalon Tripa, or prime minister, and
parliament of the government-in-exile based in
this northern Indian hill town will be held Oct
3, while the general elections will be held on March 20 next year.

A website called kalontripa.org, a private
initiative searching for the next prime minister,
has posted 20 prospective candidates for the next election.

The list includes the names of Lobsang Sangey,
senior fellow at Harvard Law School, diplomat
Tenzin Namgyal Tethong, Speaker Pempa Tsering and
Deputy Speaker Dolma Gyari, the lone woman candidate.

Interestingly, many Tibetans have posed questions
to the prospective candidates, ranging from the
key responsibilities of the next prime minister
to how they plan to resolve the Chinese
occupation and alleviate the challenges faced by their people in Tibet.

One of the questions put to Lobsang 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...

'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 both in Asia and the West.'

The views of Tenzin Namgyal Tethong, who is based
in the US, were also posted on a website. 'The
Kalon Tripa has very big responsibilities. The
leadership is 'two-way', meaning that public
support would be very important if he was to
commit himself to the five-year term.'

The lone woman candidate Dolma Gyari has also
announced that 'if I will be given an
opportunity, I will love to shoulder the responsibility of Kalon Tripa'.

However, Chief Election Commissioner Jamphel
Choesang told IANS: 'The online campaigning is
just private initiatives and to educate the
public about the significance of electing a right candidate.'

He said this time both the prime ministerial and
the parliamentary elections would be held on the
same day to ensure maximum participation of the electorate.

In the previous prime ministerial election in
2006, 72,000 were registered to vote and only
32,205 people (26.8 percent) exercised their franchise.

The Tibetan parliament-in-exile has 46 members.
Three traditional provinces of Tibet - Amdo, Kham
and Utsang - elect 10 members each, including two
women members for each province. The four schools
of Tibetan Buddhism and the traditional Bon faith
elect two members each. Three members are elected
by Tibetans in the West, two from Europe and one from North America.

In addition, the Dalai Lama has the discretion to
exercise or not to exercise the provision to nominate one to three members.

The Tibetan parliament members are elected
through two rounds of voting - preliminary and
final. Each candidate contesting for parliament
has to secure minimum 33 percent votes to get into the final round.

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 can't re-contest as the Tibetan charter
bars any individual from holding the office for more than two terms.

Kirti Dolkar Lhamo, president of the
Dharamsala-based Tibetan Women's Association,
said after the first round of the elections, the
association would convene a televised debate
among the elected candidates to give an
opportunity to each contestant to discuss issues of concern.

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.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in )
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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