News and Views on Tibet

Preliminary Tibetan election results: A report card

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By Tenzin Dharpo

DHARAMSHALA, Dec. 9: The Election Commission of the Central Tibetan Administration on Dec. 4 announced the official results of the preliminary election for both the 2016 Sikyong (Tibetan Prime Minister-ship) and the 16th Tibetan Parliament in exile.

The outcome of the preliminary poll, although not the final result for the respective seats in contention, marked for some candidates an end to their political journey, at least for the current outing.

The result for the Sikyong 2016 with the latest amended rules by the EC has meant that the race for the highest political office is now a two horse race, between the incumbent Sikyong Lobsang Sangay who won the preliminary with a landslide margin and the other, veteran politician and incumbent TPiE Speaker Penpa Tsering who although coming a distant second, enjoys a visible stature in the community.

The amended rule of eligibility for the Sikyong has put the three other candidates Lukar Jam Atsok, Tashi Wangdue and Tashi Topgyal out of the race. The candidate that received the third highest vote and also the only pro-independence candidate, Lukar Jam Atsok, believe the recent ruling by the EC could change and that he will be back in the running for the post. “Until the final announcement of the preliminary result which will happen in February, I still have hope that the abrupt ruling by the EC will be overturned. That hope is instilled in me because a lot of people are challenging the last minute amendment, not just Tibetans but long time supporters and observers of our community have spoken against the official decision”, Lukar told Phayul.

“I have no misgivings for the winners or that people not voting for me for that matter but as everyone knows, the decision by the Election Commission has come in a rather unceremonious manner. As I said before, the ideals of Tibetan democracy is at stake here,” he added.

The poll outcome for the Tibetan Parliament seats is a comparatively lesser understood or perhaps harder to grasp in terms of large number of candidates and seats. The current result shows that almost 40% – amounting to 17 out of 44 serving MPs – have failed to reach the top 10 in their respective constituencies.

The change can be attributed to more people coming forward to fight the elections and the ensuing public interest, says North America Chithue candidate Tenzin Rangdol, who although an independent candidate, has secured the second highest votes. “Unlike previous elections, this year’s election, particularly the Chithue election has seen a shift of dynamism from around the globe. It is a sign of citizens taking their responsibilities and making use of their fundamental right. So, when the stipulated seats are contested by large number of people, there is always going to be some changes. And, that is good sign where voters express their choice through votes,” he told Phayul.

Another pertinent view expressed by serving MP Yeshi Phuntsok points to a cumulative growth of the Tibetan electorates in terms of scaling new vantages of examining a candidate’s body of work or simply in determining who deserves to be in the inner circle of the exile set up.

Speaking to Phayul, he said, “I believe that being an elected member of the Parliament puts on a different kind of responsibility, it has to do much more than simply being active when the parliament is in session. An elected member has to pull its weight and more in terms of shouldering initiatives that make positive changes in the community. The public nowadays see that and know who is making a genuine effort to justify the mandate of the people. For me, my work is my message and if you do your work properly, people will notice.”

The preliminary result has shown a clear mandate and a visible shift of change in terms of public awareness and participation on the surface, yet an irrefutable detail that could turn tables is that the voter turnout for both the offices is 53%, just about half of the registered voter count.

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