By Tenzin Monlam
DHARAMSHALA, August 20: The race for the highest office in the Tibetan government in exile has now become a battle amongst five candidates with a former army in the Special Frontier Force declaring his candidacy for the Sikyong elections 2016.
Tashi Topgyal from Shillong will run for the office along with incumbent Syikong Lobsang Sangay, Speaker Penpa Tsering, former Bureaucrat and chairman of FTCI Tashi Wangdu and former political prisoner and a researcher Lukar Jam.
Tashi Topgyal announced middle-way approach as his political stand like all the other candidates except Lukar Jam, who stands for complete independence. With the new addition, this prime ministerial race is shaping up to be the most keenly contested elections with all the candidates coming from different backgrounds.
Taking a dig at Syikong on 'unity', one of his three proclaimed principles, Topgyal said, “I am bit confused over his (Lobsang Sangay) usage of the term unity. I don’t see any unity during the parliament sessions. There were disarray when the topic of whether to have representatives from Jhonang. On which Do-Mey agreed whereas Do-Toe disagreed. This clearly shows otherwise.”
Tashi Wangdu, the first person to announce his candidacy on August 10, has been actively campaigning throughout different Tibetan settlements propagating his main goals of Sustainability, Education, Economy, and Negotiation. He is currently in Bylakuppe. Ngari Chithuen Association announced Tashi as their candidate for Tibetan PM last week.
Incumbent PM Lobsang Sangay announced his decision to run on August 12 but said he will respond queries related to his election campaign only after October 2. Though Sangay is keeping himself away from the campaign, his supporters have brought out a booklet stating 10 achievements during his tenure as Syikong. National Democratic Party of Tibet (NDPT) announced Sangay and Penpa Tsering as its candidates last month.
Meanwhile, Penpa Tsering, who the Central Executive Committee U-Tsang Cholkha announced as their Sikyong candidate, on Thursday made his first public talk as Syikong candidate at TCV Days School, McLeod Ganj, marking the start of his campaign.
“In order to dedicate our full work force, we as an organization have decided to stick to a single candidate for the next Sikyong. With one candidate, we can unify the voters and avoid scattered votes during the upcoming elections in 2016,” said, Dawa Tsering, President of Office of U-Tsang Cholkha.
Though the Tibetan associations and organizations announce their candidates for PM and members of the parliament, it does not necessarily reflect in the actual results of the elections as the influence of the organizations and associations on the electorate is minimal.
Lukar Jam with his hard-hitting stand of complete independence and elimination of servitude mindset brings the other side of the Tibetan politics. The uncompromising nature has sparked the old debate of Full autonomy vs complete independence.
“Those who inherited the precious gifts of democracy from His Holiness seem to have forgotten their responsibility to restore Tibet’s freedom as soon as they entered the gates of Gangchen Kyishong. They forget that Gangchen Kyishong is not Lhasa,” he said in his press release on August 3.