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Tainting Tibetan Democracy: Bangalore misinterprets Tibetan election rules

August 9, 2010

By Tenzin Pema
Phayul
August 7, 2010

Bangalore, August 7 -- In a move that could have
serious repercussions for the growth of Tibetan
democracy, one representative office in India has
closed all registrations for the Kalon Tripa 2011
elections, effective today, eleven days ahead of its scheduled deadline.

The South Zone Office in Bangalore has wrapped up
registrations for the forthcoming elections, seen
as a crucial determinant of the future of Tibetan
movement, saying the Election Commission (EC)
announcement explicitly called for registrations
to be done by August 18. As such, the office was
stopping further registrations, and would now be
compiling the list of registered voters and
photocopying relevant documents to be sent to the EC office, it said.

None of the people who were refused the
opportunity to register agreed to talk even on
conditions of extreme anonymity. One reasoning
that was offered to them, they said, was that the
office could not wait for potential voters to
come one at a time until the said deadline.

In June, the Tibetan Election Commission
announced registration dates for the 2011
election of Kalon Tripa or Tibetan Prime Minister
as well as that of the members of the Tibetan
Parliament-in-Exile. Mr. Jamphel Chosang, the
Election Commissioner, addressing a press
conference in Dharamsala on June 10 said the
registration of Tibetan exile voters will start
on June 18 and will close on August 18, 2010.

Earlier today, when Phayul contacted Mr. Chosang
for clarification on whether registration
deadlines differed for different regions, he
said, the same rules and deadlines applied, irrespective of geographies.

Speaking to Phayul by phone, Mr. Chosang
reiterated that the last date for registering for
the said elections was set at August 18, adding
that the list of registered voters would have to
reach the EC office by August 25.

The Office of the Chief Representative in
Bangalore had issued a notice -- which set August
5 as the last date for registrations -- among
Tibetans in the city as well as settlements under
its purview, adding that Tibetans should have
paid attention to these announcements and
registered according to the schedule set by the said office.

But in any city, and Bangalore included, where
Tibetan population is almost always scattered,
many have only the Internet to bank on for information.

When this reporter approached the Tibetan exile
government’s South Zone office to register, the
Chief Representative Mr Tashi Phuntsok flatly
disagreed to allow it saying the office was taking no further registrations.

They had in fact extended their initial deadline
from August 5 to August 7, a member of the
Regional Tibetan Freedom Movement said.

On further probing over whether this meant that
no person from the South Zone could register
henceforth, the Chief Representative agreed.

"Wow! That is wrong. The government announced
it’s till August 18," Mr Lobsang Wangyal, a free-lance photojournalist, said.

Tibetan activist Mr. Tenzin Tsundue echoed Mr
Wangyal’s sentiment. "This is completely illegal
to close registrations before the actual day,”
Mr. Tsundue said. "If someone finds them breaking
the rule, he must complain firstly to the Central
Election Commissioner and to the local
legislative assembly officers,” advised Mr
Tsundue, who is also part of the Youth for Better
Democracy group whose primary goal is to create
awareness of the election process, registration
and the date, in addition to introducing the candidates to potential voters.

The primary elections to nominate candidates for
Kalon Tripa and the Tibetan Parliament is set for
October 3, 2010, while the general elections is
slated to take place on March 20, 2011.

* Tenzin Pema is a Bangalore based business journalist.
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