By Ponteng Thinley Dhondup (New Delhi)
Our democracy was presented to us by H.H The Dalai Lama when our nation was plundered by
People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China. We evolved our democratic culture while struggling
refuges in the exile land. We are enjoying the rights of a democracy while fighting for our
freedom from the hands of totalitarian China. Election sits at the heart of every democracy
prevailing in this world, and it is a clear manifestation of how that democratic nation works.
Because, the election is by the people to elect their leadership, who is for the people to achieve
their welfare and interest. According to Jeane Kirkpatrick, an Americian scholar, democratic
election is not just symbolic rather they are competitive, periodic, inclusive and definitive.
The 2011 election was one of the biggest “leap forward” transformation in the history of exile
Tibetans. The election had made the public debate and discussion inclusive and it was rather
competitive with highly qualified candidate from various backgrounds of campaigning
wholeheartedly to be elected. The election was also the most definitive in a way such that the
public enjoyed the right of criticism yet were able to build up a public consensus and popularly
elect the most deserving representative as Prime Minister and Members of the Parliament
The 2016 election is at its threshold, and the exiled Tibetans in various communities are already
discussing in full swing about their candidates both in terms of criticism and favoritism. There
are five candidates for the Sikyong, who came out and spoke of their candidacy. Similarly, in the
previous election, the candidates vary in their educational credentials and service experiences.
One thing to be noted in this election is that one of the Sikyong candidate stands for complete
independence (Rangzen), which is a new scenario in this election. There are numerous Chitue
candidates this time from different backgrounds, but mostly from the younger generation both
self-nominated candidates and candidates nominated by nongovernment organizations.
Rights and Responsibilities
“Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another, and it becomes my duty to guarantee
as well as to possess.” (Rights of Man 1791) Responsibilities are the products of rights and rights
are bound to the responsibilities. Basically, in a democratic society, rights and responsibilities are
the two criteria that create a good relationship between citizen and state, in our case public and
administration. The rights and responsibilities have to be borne by both the public as voters and
the candidates who they vote for. Under the Universal Suffrage, it is the right of the public to
cast their votes for their choice of leadership. But that Universal Suffrage Right should not be
taken lightly as it is binding through responsibility of electing the right person for the right post.
One has to know the importance of Sikyong and the Chitue working at Gangkyi and their duties
and demands, as well as the ability of the individual to meet that demand. Recently, I saw a
statement on a social networking site where the writer argued that Tibetans in India are
misguided so have misconstrued themselves in supporting the Sikyong or Chitue candidates.
Somehow, the argument is true by studying the climate of present ongoing Sikyong and Chitue
candidate's election campaign. There was a huge, irresponsible or a senseless reaction from
public in various means, be it in a social network or in organizing the public debate. Being a
responsible voter, one should not let himself fall into the trap of the mere participates in emotion
driven election campaign rather a thorough analysis has to be done in order to elect the best out
of the best. The casting of the vote itself is a part of every individual’s struggle for freedom.
It is a sign of progress for having so many candidates for the Chitue and more or less for the
Sikyong. It can also be a wish-fulfilling desire of our older generations, many of whom believed
it is the right time for a more educated and dynamic young leaderships to take the responsibility.
The responsibility is incomparably heavy due to a critical situation of Tibetan people in Tibet
and the uncertain situation of Tibetans in exile. The quantity itself doesn’t serve the purpose; the
quality matters a lot. It is a democratic right to stand as candidates of Chitue or Sikyong, but one
has to keep in mind that the weight of responsibility lies ahead, and so to question oneself
whether he or she possesses that capability. It is not just to impress voters to win the Tibetan Idol
competition, rather shouldering the solemn responsibility of realizing the aspiration of six
million Tibetans. Hence, one has to feel the responsibility before vying the seat.
Some observations on the current election trends.
This time, the Election Commission (EC) was expanded with an Additional Election
Commissioner which comprised of a Chief Election Commissioner with two Additional Election
Commissioners. The expansion of EC is positive, in many ways, to regulate the election process
well under a free and fair election. It is also an indicator of growing public interest and vibrant
participation of the larger population in the election process. The EC has laid out certain new
rules regarding the campaign expenses and activities of the candidates as well as the supporter
groups. The new rules are welcome initiatives to have a free and fair election and to make
everything transparent and accountable to each and every individual of the general public.
The general doubt about the new rules is its implementations because there is an obscurity and
vagueness for the practical sense of enforcement. The concern was highlighted by the editorial
board of the TPR in their piece of “The Good and Bad of the Tibetan Election Process So Far”.
They stated “We have serious concerns about the constitutionality of some of the EC’s rules, but
this editorial takes the rules as given.” The problem of effectiveness, especially lies in part 5 of
the article 24, which is to distinguish between the official speeches and campaign speeches of the
incumbent candidates using the official platform. The usage of campaign literature, which
contains the portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and emblem of CTA as well as Tibetan
national flag and Tibet map. Some of these are indeed very vague to identify, even though the
EC has declared that violating such rules will bear a penalty of having 5% of the votes received
being declared as null and void. The EC has made clear that anyone can approach the EC if he or
she has clear evidence and want to raise the issue. The investigation will be done accordingly,
and the actions will be follow the violation of any rules. But the question is who will come up
voluntarily only to bring the issue unless and until there is no any official committee to monitor
the campaign activities.
The piece in TPR contained EC’s response to the CTA website used for dismissing the Sikyong
candidate Tashi Wangdue’s charge against the Health Department, where EC has stated that
“There is no way we would be able to investigate each and every case of this nature with the
limited manpower we have. We are also not aware of the objective of the Health Department to
issue this clarification.” The statement clearly shows the limitation of EC as though they have
laid out the rules, they have problem enforcing it. It is good to consider the rules that are written
only if they doesn’t cause any conflict regarding the absence of enforcement. In order to make
the case the EC wants someone voluntarily to come up with the evidences of rules broken.
Hence, after all someone has to act as himself or herself an appellant so that EC can get a hand to
clean the things.
But it is fair enough to acknowledge and welcome such rules as an initiative to have fair and
smooth election campaign. The EC has also visited different settlements and clarified all these
The Sikyong election campaign is going well with hot debate wherever Tibetan communities are
located. Recently, I was traveling from Dehradun to Delhi, while I was waiting for my bus at
Dekyiling and within twenty minutes people started to debate between each other about the
Sikyong candidates. I can see so much of people’s participation and interest in the election
As of now, we have five Sikyong candidates who have come forward and made their candidature
over press conferences or in different media. There are two CTA incumbent candidates and three
new candidates who are more or less not related to any of the CTA offices. As it is commonly
understood, most of the debate is happening between two incumbent candidates and three
candidates. Moreover, this time it is remarkable to say that one of the candidates doesn’t come
from CTA stand that is the Middle Path (Lam Uma) but on an another that is of Complete
Independence (Rangzen). This gives a new perspective on the current Sikyong campaign, which
is somehow the indicator of the progress in our democratic culture. The inclusiveness plays a
bigger role, even in the face of different ideologies, that there is a space where one can enjoy his
or her right.
Given all these scenarios, one of the biggest problems of the current election is that people were
misunderstood and are falling into the trap of this ideological inclination. Most of the debates are
either directly or indirectly turning around on these two stands rather than talking about the
candidate as a person. The election in its genuine purpose is to elect a right person for the right
post and not for between one stand over another. Making a candidate’s political stand more
important than his or her capability for the post of Sikyong is problematic for this election and a
liability for us in the post-election period.
The essence of this election is to elect a capable and confident person to hold the Sikyong
responsibility irrespective of what is his or her political stand. If the candidate is not competent
enough for whatever responsibility he takes, then what is the use of his stand as he won’t be able
to carry it further. Let us not be deluded by the empty political stand (for the moment), rather it is
time for us to study the background of each candidate, their capability in whatever capacity they
have demostrated it before. Each candidate’s past journey is the witness for the present to judge
their competency in the future. There is no any political stand inclination, there is no any
sympathy, there is no any regionalism, but there are only education and competence that can
shape our future in a much better way.
This time there are a overwhelming number of Parliamentarian candidates, unlike any of the past
elections. I could say this is also a good sign of a growing democratic value in our society, and
people are awakening, especially the younger generation who are taking steps forward to grasp
the opportunity. This revolutionizing thing about the growing number of candidates, more
precisely from the younger generation is due to none other than the social media revolution. The
social network makes it easier, just to write their biography and promote their candidacy as much
as they can in this virtual world.
Standing for Chitue candidates, especially from the younger generation is welcomed, but at the
same time one has to think about the responsibility of Chitue in contrast with their own
capability and education. There should be some education and competency in order to take the
responsibility of Chitue as it is not a hit-or-miss election. Emerging are a large number of Chitue
candidates which gives us more and multiple choices and equally makes if difficult for us to
choose one of the deserving ones. If not careful we may confuse by the sheer number of
candidates and miss the real test of quality. As a voter, it is our inevitable responsibility to study
about the candidates from their past to the present in order to measure their education and
In conclusion, I hope there will be a more serious debate between the candidates of both Sikyong
and Chitue and voters will stay committed to elect the best out of the best candidates. May this
election will be a force to bring us closer to freedom of our nation.