By Tenzin Monlam
DHARAMSHALA, March 20: The Tibetan exiles around the world today cast their votes to elect the new Prime Minister (Sikyong) and the members of the 16th Tibetan Parliament in Exile (Chithue).
Theckchen Choeling Tsuglakhang courtyard, one of the main polling stations in Dharamshala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile, saw long queues stretching till the entry gate with monks, nuns and general public alike enthusiastically waiting to cast their ballots.
“I feel very fortunate to be able to exercise my right to vote, a right which is a precious gift from His Holiness. Today, I have voted for the candidate who has dedicated over 20 years of his life working for the Tibetan Administration. I see his experience as an important aspect. Moreover, he has a steady political stand,” said Tenzin Gyatso, a monk who was one of the early voters here at Tsuglakhang.
The polling booth at Ghangchen Kyishong, the premises of the Tibetan exile government where the two PM candidates cast their ballots, also witnessed long queues of Tibetans waiting with their green books.
An old woman prays before casting her ballot, McLeod Ganj, March 20, 2016. Phayul Photo: Kunsang Gashon
Jampa, a Tibetan voting for the first time, said, “With this blessing and authority from our leader, I feel it is our responsibility to oblige that gift. I feel blessed for being able to cast my vote for the first time.” He added that he cast his vote for incumbent PM who he said has done so much on raising Tibetan issues on global platform, development of the Tibetan settlements, on education front and various others.
Prof Su Jai Hong from Taiwan, Author of Tibetan–Democracy in Exile and Democracy Transformation in Exile
, said, “I know democracy is not easy but I am witnessing improvement in the Tibetan Democratic set up. As far as recent Taiwan election is concerned, it is not so sound but it is in a better situation than China comparatively.”
The two candidates have been on a relentless campaign since the preliminary results came out, touring every major settlements and cities around the world, holding debates and public talks. With the final elections over, both the candidates agree that they would have a respite from all the hectic travelling.