By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, October 3: Hundreds and thousands of Tibetan exiles across the world on Sunday went to polls to cast their ballots to nominate candidates for the post of Kalon Tripa and members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile.
Buddhist monks show their Tibetan ‘Green Book’ as they wait in queue to cast their votes on Sunday in Dharamsala, India.
Although the voter turnout may vary from place to place, thanks to the highly publicized campaigns initiated by various NGOs, youth groups and individuals alike, the overall figure of registered voters is little higher this time than that of the last general elections held in 2006,
As of the August 18 voter registration deadline, according to the Election Commission of the Central Tibetan Administration, 79,449 people were registered to vote in the 2011 general elections.
In the last general elections held in 2006, 72,776 (60%) were registered to vote and, an estimated 26.8% (32,205 people) actually voted.
The latest population census conducted by the Tibetan Planning Commission last year shows little over 89,000 Tibetans of the approximately 150,000 Tibetans in exile are above the age of 18 and are eligible to vote.
While the registered voters have increased by 6678, more than 9000 people have failed to register.
In Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibet’s government in exile in north India, 10 polling booths were set up in different locations as approximately 11,000 registered Tibetan voters here are expected to go to the polls from 9.am and 5.pm.
In McLeod Ganj, the town in Upper Dharamsala, known worldwide for the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama where he has resided since fleeing Tibet in 1959, hundreds lined up since early morning to cast their votes in the courtyard of the Main Tibetan Temple (Tsuglag-khang).
As the voting continued here, a special message by the exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the elections was also played simultaneously into a loudspeaker. In the message, which was first delivered during a special meeting of Tibetan exiles held a month ago in Bylakoppe Tibetan settlement in South India, the Dalai Lama applauded the progressive steps taken by Tibetan exiles towards democratic process, while at the same time urging them to be be prudent about the situation facing Tibet.
In the message, the Tibetan leader also said he had no preference in personally endorsing a candidate of his choice, and added that he would stand by a popularly elected Kalon Tripa.
Other polling booths were set up at Gangkyi premise, Norbu Lingkha, College for Higher Tibetan Studies, Gyuto Monastic University, Lower TCV School, Upper TCV School, Tibetan Transit School, TCV Gopalpur and Chamunda area.
The 2011 general elections will decide the third directly elected Tibetan PM and also the successor to the incumbent Kalon Tripa, marking the first democratic transfer of executive power in the history of the Tibetan nation. It will also see the election of members who will form the 15th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile.
Unlike the past, the Tibetan Election Commission this time has decided both the Kalon Tripa and Parliament elections would take place on the same day both during their preliminary and final rounds.
The final round of elections will be held next year on March 20.
The election commission has so far not specified exact date to declare the results of preliminary polls, but has indicated that it would take up to two months.