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<-Back to WTN Archives Tibetan exiles vote for new premier (AP)
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World Tibet Network News

Published by the Canada Tibet Committee

Monday, July 30, 2001

1. Tibetan exiles vote for new premier (AP)

FRESH FACE: After today's vote, Samdhong Rinpoche is expected to become the next
Kalon Tripa, or prime minister, of the Dalai Lama's government in exile

As published in Taipei Times, July 29, 2001

Most politicians nominated to head their government by four voters out of five
probably wouldn't sequester themselves thousands of kilometers from the seat of
power and retreat into meditation.

But then Samdhong Rinpoche is no typical politician, and the administration he
is likely to lead -- the Tibetan government in exile -- is no average polity. It
could change vastly, too, during Samdhong's tenure as Kalon Tripa, or prime

The Buddhist monk is in Bangalore, almost the length of India away from the
exile government's headquarters in Dharmsala.

Associates say he probably will remain outside the political loop until next
month -- after the final round of voting today should have confirmed him as the
next head of the Cabinet, the executive body of the Dalai Lama's government in

His retreat is a surprising response from a man many expect to bring greater
transparency and a new dynamism to the post.

But his absence is unlikely to harm his chances. In the first poll in May --
when voters were asked to simply write in their preferred nominee -- the results
were overwhelming. Samdhong got 81 percent, or 31,444 of the 38,793 votes cast,
a record turnout.

Samdhong shouldn't face any serious challenge in the final balloting by
registered voters in Tibetan settlements across India, Nepal and Bhutan, and as
far afield as the US, Europe and Australia.

It is the first time the prime minister will be elected directly rather than
nominated by the Dalai Lama. The change, like many reforms in Tibet's fledgling
democracy, came at the Dalai Lama's initiative. The Dalai Lama, 66, said he
wanted to hand over the everyday running of his administration to the prime

"His Holiness wanted to have a system whereby people at least have someone to
lead them. Right now everything is on His Holiness. As long as he's there it's
well and good, but the day is bound to happen that he's no more with us," said
Assistant Election Commissioner Lobsang Tsultrim.

But exactly how much power the Dalai Lama will cede to the prime minister is

"His Holiness and the Kalon Tripa would need to sit down and discuss in detail
the division of their responsibility," said Thubten Samphel, secretary of the
Department of Information and International Relations. "The post of the Kalon
Tripa is ... going to be much more critical and much more influential than the
present Kalon Tripa."

One power the Dalai Lama has ceded is the nomination of the Cabinet, which will
be subject to approval by the exile parliament, the Assembly of Tibetan People's

Tibetans retain an immense faith in the Dalai Lama's leadership, and some
commentators doubt the prime minister will enjoy much real power until he has
held office for some time.

"Ultimately there will be a day His Holiness will impose that kind of duty on
him. In the coming five-year term I don't think that he will proceed like that,"
says Tseten Norbu, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, the radical arm of
the Tibetan freedom movement.

Samdhong, 61, is expected to bring a change of style to the office. Unlike the
incumbent, Sonam Topgyal, he has a high profile and is fluent in Hindi and
English. He has forged links with the Indian community and served as the Dalai
Lama's representative on overseas missions.

Tibetans believe that Samdhong, like the Dalai Lama, is a reincarnated,
high-ranking monk. He also has a strong background in government, having been
chairman of the parliament and vice chairman of the commission that drafted the
government's constitution. He is credited with opening parliament's proceedings
to the public and with making the Cabinet accountable to the parliament.

"He believes in democracy, and that in itself is a plus point," says Norbu.


Articles in this Issue:
  1. Tibetan exiles vote for new premier (AP)
  2. China Jails 6 Tibetans On "Splittist" Activities (AP)
  3. China builds railroad on top of world (Chicago Tribune)
  4. Seminar on Tibetan Studies Concludes (PD)

Other articles this month - WTN Index - Mail the WTN-Editors

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