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Police Confiscate Tibetan Ballots

October 6, 2010

Police in Nepal disrupt polls for Tibetan leaders in exile.
Radio Free Asia (RFA)
October 4, 2010

In this video grab, Nepali police seize ballot
boxes in Kathmandu, Oct. 3, 2010.

KATHMANDU -- Nepalese police confiscated ballot
boxes at Tibetan exile government polling
stations in Kathmandu before polls closed Sunday,
according to a local election official.

Twenty ballot boxes were confiscated from the
Swayambhunath, Boudha, and Jawalakel polling
stations, all located in the Nepali capital.

Tsering Dhondup, an election officer in charge of
the Boudha-Jorpati area, said police seized the
boxes at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 3, half an hour before
polling stations closed for the day.

"The pre-election went well this" However,
suddenly around 30 to 40 Nepalese policemen came
to the Boudha election site and took all of the
election boxes that we Tibetans voted in today," Dhondup said.

"Later, we found that -- the order had come
straight down from the Home Ministry to do so," he said.

Tibetans were casting ballots to nominate the
prime minister and parliamentary members of the
Tibetan government in exile, which is led by the
Dalai Lama and headquartered in Dharamsala, India.

Ballot returns unlikely

Dhondup said it is unlikely that Nepali
authorities would return the confiscated ballot boxes.

"It is difficult to say whether they will return
the boxes exactly as they were or not -- They are
asking which Tibetans are involved in the election," Dhondup said.

"The political status and conditions allowed to
Tibetans in Nepal are harsh. On the surface,
there is support for Tibetans in Nepal, but in
reality the Nepalese government has given us a lot of hardship," he said.

Dhondup had said in an interview earlier on
Sunday that voters had not met with any resistance from Nepalese authorities.

"We have maintained good relations with local
police. They have not restricted the voting
process and I consider this an achievement."

Nepal's increasing political tilt toward China
has put at risk Tibetan refugees protesting
China's crackdown in neighboring Tibetan regions of China.

Tibetans demonstrating outside Chinese diplomatic
facilities in Nepal have routinely been beaten,
detained, and threatened with deportation to India.

According to Thinley Gyatso, head of the
Kathmandu Election Commission for the Tibetan
government-in-exile, there are nearly 8,200
Tibetans in the capital registered to vote in the election.

Over 79,500 Tibetans worldwide are registered for
the election, according to the election commission.

The final round of voting will be held in March.

Pokhara, Lalitpur ballots safe

Ballot boxes were confiscated in Kathmandu, but
election officials said they saw no police
interference with voting in Pokhara and Lalitpur. Credit: RFA

Election commission officials in central Nepal’s
Pokhara city, after hearing about the news in
Kathmandu, confirmed that nothing had happened to ballot boxes there.

One man who voted in Phokara praised election
management, but called for election officials to keep the public informed.

"The voting process went very well but the
election commission should be very transparent about the reports."

Another voter said public interest in the polls was high.

"For the past two months people have been
discussing and debating it. That shows people are
demonstrating standard democratic practice."

The Tibetan government in exile was first
established in India after the Dalai Lama fled
from China in 1959. Since 2001, the Chitue
(members of parliament) and Kalon Tripa (prime
minister) have been directly elected by the Tibetan community in exile.

The exile government issues "green books" to
Tibetans living outside Tibet to allow them to
register for elections.  The books are used for
school admission and scholarships, employment
within the exile community, and making
contributions or “voluntary taxes” to the exile government.

Voter registration is higher this year than for
past elections as Tibetans in China’s Tibet
Autonomous Region have grown increasingly
outspoken against Beijing’s rule and the
75-year-old Dalai Lama had signaled his retirement.

During the previous election in 2006, 72,800 Tibetans registered to vote.

More than one dozen candidates are competing to
replace current Tibetan Prime Minister Samdhong
Rinpoche, who will step down after serving the
maximum two terms allowed under the Tibetan charter.

Candidates include Harvard University research
scholar Lobsang Sangay, former minister Tenzin
Tethong Namgyal, former president of the Tibetan
Youth Congress Tsetan Norbu, Speaker Pempa
Tsering, and Deputy Speaker Dolma Gyari.

Results from the primary election are expected in
about one month’s time as ballots must be
collected from Tibetan exile communities
throughout India, Bhutan, Nepal, and in North America.

Original reporting by Dawa Dolma and Thupten
Sangye for RFA’s Tibetan service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.
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