Tibetan exiles vote to elect next PM

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Dharamsala, Jan 3 (IANS) Tibetan exiles across the world on Sunday voted to elect their new ‘Sikyong’ or Prime Minister as well as members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile based here in this northern hill town in Himachal Pradesh.
Long queues of men and women were seen in the morning at nine polling centres in this town to elect the prime ministerial contender out of eight in the fray. The second and final phase of the election will be held on April 11. Current incumbent Lobsang Sangay is not in the fray.
Officials said polling took place in 85 places around the world.
The significance of the Sikyong’s post has risen following Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama’s retirement from active politics in 2011. The Dalai Lama is, however, not a voter in the polls.
Voters will also elect 45 members of the Parliament-in-exile out of 150 contenders. More than 80,000 Tibetans in exile across the world were to take part in the election. In the US and Europe, the electoral process is underway.
In India, voting took place, among other places, in Darjeeling (West Bengal), Bylakuppe (Karnataka), Bengaluru (Karnataka), Dehradun (Uttarakhand) and Delhi. It ended in India at 5 p.m.
Out of the total voters, 55,683 are residing in India while the remaining 24,014 are registered in other parts of the globe.
Some of the other countries where the election is taking place include Japan, Russia and Australia.
The prime ministerial contenders include the representative of the Dalai Lama in Delhi, Kasur Dongchung Ngodup, former representative of Dalai Lama to North America. Former Speaker of the Parliament-in-exile Penpa Tsering and incumbent deputy speaker Acharya Yeshi Phuntosok.
The last election in 2016 was the second direct election for electing the Tibetan leadership since complete devolution of political authority by the Dalai Lama. The second and the last five-year term of Prime Minister Sangay will expire in August. The Harvard-educated Sangay was the first political successor to the Dalai Lama.
Since assuming power in August 2011, granting of more autonomy in Tibet “within the Chinese Constitution”, creation of awareness on Tibet and education of the exiled youth were among crucial issues for Sangay.
He took over the reins of the government-in-exile from monk-scholar Samdhong Rinpoche, who held the post for 10 years.
The 85-year-old Dalai Lama, the global face of the Tibetan movement, lives in exile in Dharamsala along with some 140,000 Tibetans, with over 100,000 of them in different parts of India while over six million Tibetans still live in Tibet.

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