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Amidst uncertainty, Tibetan exiles vote for future

October 4, 2010

Gaurav Bisht
The Hindustan Times
October 3, 2010

Amidst uncertainty over Tibet's future, the
Tibetan refugees on  Sunday turned out in large
number to vote in preliminary round of elections
to choose future leadership that will have
crucial responsibility to lead Tibetan movement,
since aging -- 75 year-old -- Dalai Lama had signaled his retirement.

Voting for pre -polls scheduled to select
candidates for Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) and
for 44 members Tibetan parliament began on high
note, as Tibetan refugees made beelines at booth
when polling began at 9 in the morning. Those
candidates who manage to secure 33 percent of the
total votes will be qualified  to enter general
elections slated for March next year.

This year a total number of 79,449 Tibetans are
registered as voters in comparision to 2006 when
there were 72,771 voters. The elections were held
in all the settlements in India.

Unlike previous election, which witnessed low
enthusiasm recording 48 per cent turn out;
voter's response in the preliminary rounds this
time was overwhelming, particularly from the younger generations.

Tibetans from different walks of life including
students, bureaucrats, women and monastic
community could be seen jostling with green books
(registration books) to cast their
votes.  Tibetan leaders expressed happiness over
crowd's hording at the polling booths. "I am glad
to see Tibetan crowds at polling station" the
current Tibetan Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche
who cast his vote at booths outside Tibetan secretariat told Hindustan Times.

Rinpoche has remained two time prime minister; he
did not contest elections this time owing
to  provisions of Tibetan charter, which bars
anyone for running for third consecutive time in
row.   With over one dozen candidates in fray for
Prime Minister, the prominent include Harvard
University Professor Lobsang Sangay, Tibetan
diplomat Tenzin Tethong Namgyal, former President
of Tibetan Youth Congress Tsetan Norbu, Speaker
Pempa Tsering, Deputy- Speaker Dolma Gyari is lone only woman candidate.

Numbers of voters were more at the polling booth
located at premises of main Buddhist temple
located outside Dalai Lama's residence in
Mcleodganj. After Tibetan struggled to make their
way to the booths, officers on duty called for Indian police to restore order.

Tibet's exiled leader- the Dalai Lama, who drew
worlds attention to the vexed Tibetan issue, did
not caste his vote for nominating  either the
parliamentarians or selecting candidates for  coveted post of Prime Minister.

"On this issue we cannot comment anything," said
Tenzing Taklha, joint secretary at Dalai Lama's private office.

Dalai Lama Tenzing Gyatso , Tibet’s temporal and
Spiritual head had set up Tibetan
-government-in-exile in after he fled Lhasa in
1959- he describes himself semi retired.

Tibetan had been attaching greater significance
to the elections as they believe the future
leadership has more crucial role to play in
taking forward the Tibetan movement, as there
growing fear that Dalai Lama's death would create
a void in Tibetan polity. Dalai Lama, who
received Nobel Prize for peace for advocating
Gandhian philosophy of Non-violence, is still
indecisive about his succession. Chinahas already
shown up its intention for picking up next Dalai
Lama, even though Tenzing Gyatso says that his re
incarnate would be born in  free country.  Dalai
Lama seeks greater autonomy for Chinese
controlled Tibet but communist regime refuses to
soften its stance even after nine rounds of talks with his emissaries.

The results of the preliminary rounds would be
compiled after a month since the ballots would be
collected from Tibetan settlements all over
India, Bhutan, and Nepal and from North America.

"It will take time to compile the results, but
the reports say that response to the elections
had been overwhelming, " said Jhamphel Chosang
Chief Election commissioner in Central Tibetan administration.

Past few months have witnessed robust election campaign from Tibetans in exile.
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