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Election 2011: Job Descriptions of the Kalon Tripa and Chitue

October 14, 2010

The Editorial Board
The Tibetan Political Review
September 24, 2010
updated on October 6, 2010

With the fast-approaching primary election on
October 3, when Tibetans will choose the official
candidates for Kalon Tripa and Chitue, the
Editorial Board of The Tibetan Political Review
has attempted to summarize the job descriptions
for these two positions.  It is our hope that
clarity on these offices' responsibilities will
help voters better evaluate the candidates.

These job descriptions are derived from the
Charter of the Tibetans in Exile, which is the
constitution of the Tibetan government in
exile.  These are simply our interpretations, and
any discrepancy with the actual text of the
Charter should, of course, be resolved in favor of the Charter.

I. Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister)
1. Formal Power

The formal role of the Kalon Tripa is primarily
administrative.  He/she heads the Kashag, the
highest executive body of the Tibetan government
in exile.  Therefore, to understand the formal
power of the Kalon Tripa requires understanding
the power of the Kashag (Cabinet).

The executive power of the Tibetan government is
ultimately vested in His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
the head of state.  According to the Charter, the
Kashag is “primarily responsible for exercising
the executive powers of the Tibetan
Administration,” under the “leadership of His
Holiness.”  Today, with His Holiness’ stated
desire to “retire” from politics, the Kashag has
been moving towards a model of constitutional
monarchy (e.g. Britain and Thailand), where the
government exercises power in the name of the Crown.

The Charter specifies the following executive
powers that the Kashag may exercise in the name of His Holiness:

1. approve and promulgate bills and regulations passed by the Parliament

2. promulgate acts and ordinances with the force
of law (these are not laws, but rather executive orders)

3. confer honors and appointments (e.g. appoint
the heads of the Offices of Tibet)

4. Summon and adjourn Parliament

5. Send messages to or address Parliament

6. Dissolve or suspend Parliament

7. Dissolve the Kashag or remove a Kalon

8. Authorize referendums

9. Prepare an annual budget for Parliament's approval

10. Assent to Parliament’s introduction of a bill
involving an expenditure, tax, or indebtedness by the Tibetan government

11. Summon a Special General Meeting of the
Tibetan People (with the assent of His Holiness,
the Speaker of Parliament, and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament)

The Kashag does not have independent law-making
power, which requires Parliamentary action.  The
Charter states that the Kashag shall formulate
“regulations concerning the transaction of
administrative business, rules and regulations,
and the making of decisions” by the
Kashag.  However, the Charter also states that
“those laws shall come into force” only with the
approval of Parliament and His Holiness.

In connection with the Kashag’s power as
described above, the Kalon Tripa is primarily
responsible for presiding over meetings of the
Kashag.  Therefore, the Kalon Tripa has the power
to set the agenda and guide the decision-making
process.  In this way the Kalon Tripa has the
power to exercise overall leadership over the
direction and policy of the Tibetan government
and bureaucracy.  However, as discussed further
below, formal policy-making requires legislation,
which can only be passed by Parliament.

The Kalon Tripa also has the power, subject to
parliamentary approval, to appoint the other
seven members of the Kashag (the Cabinet), who
are known as Kalons and who hold the portfolios
of Education, Finance, Health, Home, Information
and International Relations, Religion and
Culture, and Security.  The Kalon Tripa may also
seek to remove a Kalon, but only with the support
of a majority of Parliament and two-thirds of the
Kashag, as well as His Holiness' assent.

2.  Informal Power

In addition to the formal power described above,
the Kalon Tripa today has increasing informal
power due to the growing prominence of the
office.  This stems from the fact that the
current Kalon Tripa, Samdhong Rinpoche, can claim
a mandate as the first directly-elected leader of
the Tibetan people, second in political prominence only to His Holiness.

As time passes, and with His Holiness continuing
to press the Tibetan people to take more
responsibility for their own political affairs,
one can see the office of Kalon Tripa becoming
similar to a prime minister in a constitutional
monarchy: i.e. the leader of the national
government, under a head of state who is largely
removed from politics.  As such, the Kalon Tripa
will have a growing role as the
democratically-elected leader of the Tibetan
people, with the moral authority and unifying
responsibility that such a role involves.

3.  Our View of the Job Requirements

The Kalon Tripa serves as the head of the
executive branch of the Tibetan
government.  He/she should be a strong
administrator, overseeing the Kalons who head the
various departments of the Tibetan government.  A
successful Kalon Tripa should have the ability to
effectively run meetings, set agendas, manage
bureaucracies and civil servants, balance
competing (and sometimes clashing) interests and
personalities, and have a deep understanding of the budget process.

More broadly, he/she should have the vision
necessary to be a strong leader: the ability to
think strategically and to identify problems
before they manifest, the ability to see and plan
for the needs of the future, and the ability to
mobilize the government bureaucracy and people
towards solving those goals.  Above all, the
Kalon Tripa must have a “steady hand” in times of both opportunity and crisis.

In addition to the Kalon Tripa’s responsibilities
within the Tibetan government, he/she will also
be increasingly looked to as the leader of the
Tibetan people, second only to His Holiness.  A
successful Kalon Tripa must be able to unify the
Tibetan people, and not be an unnecessarily
polarizing figure to any significant section of
the population.  He/she must be able to
communicate effectively with the people to
explain the priorities of his/her administration,
as well as to listen to popular feedback.

Internationally, the Kalon Tripa will have an
increasingly prominent role. He/she should have
the stature and gravitas to represent the Tibetan
people on the international stage, toe-to-toe
with world leaders.  He/she should also have a
good understanding of China, and the ability to
develop good relations with Indian
leaders.  He/she should also have an excellent
grasp of English (the global lingua franca) and,
perhaps, Chinese and Hindi as well.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly from a
religious perspective, the Kalon Tripa must have
the karma and merit to serve His Holiness and
have daily contact with Him.  After all, as Kalon
Tripa, he/she will head the government in the name of His Holiness.

II. Chitue (Mmber of Parliament)
1.  Power

The role of a Chitue is primarily as a law-maker.
A Chitue is a member of the Parliament (the
Tibetan Assembly, or Chitue Lhantsok).  Each
Chitue has the right to introduce any bill or
legislation, or propose any amendment, as prescribed by the Parliament’s rules.

According to the Charter, all legislative power
and authority rests with the Parliament, subject
to the formal requirement to seek His Holiness’
assent as head of state.  This includes the power to:

1. Pass legislation (subject to the other restrictions below)

2. Amend the Charter, with a two-thirds vote

3. Discuss, assent to, reduce, or reject the
Kashag’s annual budgetary proposal (with a few subjects excepted)

4. Pass legislation dealing with a tax or
indebtedness by the Tibetan government, subject to the Kashag’s assent

5. Set the salary of the Kalon Tripa and Kalons,
as well as of the Chitues themselves

6. Remove a Kalon, with a two-thirds vote

7. Remove the Chief Justice Commissioner, with a two-thirds vote

8. Relieve His Holiness of His executive
functions, with a three-fourth vote and in
consultation with the Supreme Justice Commission
(this is sometimes mis-interpreted as
"impeachment," which it is not; His Holiness
would remain Dalai Lama, with all religious power
intact, but His executive function in the
government would be exercised by a Council of Regency)

2. Election 2011: Our View of the Job Requirements

The Chitue serves as a member of the Tibetan
government’s highest law-making body.  The
Parliament has the power to pass laws that define
the Tibetan government’s policies.  A Chitue must
have an understanding of the legislative process,
including parliamentary rules and the drafting of
laws.  For this role, a legal background would be a strong asset.

Additionally, the Chitue should have a
familiarity with the budget process, because one
of the key responsibilities of Parliament is to
approve the budget of the Tibetan government.  A
Chitue must also have the wisdom necessary to
hold the power to vote to remove the Justice
Commissioner or a Kalon, and even to relieve His Holiness' executive function.

Chitue members would ideally bring to this body a
willingness to explore new ideas and new ways of
approaching problems.  The Parliament is a place
for debate, and it benefits from having members
who are willing to think “outside the box” in
innovative ways.  Such unorthodox ideas might
involve risk if implemented directly, but they
can be debated, revised, improved, or rejected by
other parliamentarians.  In this way, the
lawmaking process can be revitalized by the
injection of new and innovative ideas, while
being tempered by the need to convince a parliamentary majority.

Lastly, but not least, the Chitue should have a
good understanding of, and communication
relationship with, his/her constituents.  As a
candidate, the Chitue must make clear what laws
and policies he/she would advocate.  Once in
office, the Chitue should commit to having an
"open door policy" where constituents can bring
their ideas, problems, and complaints, and the
Chitue will do his/her best to resolve them or
bring them to the attention of Parliament.
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