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A Personal Thought on Upcoming Exile Tibetan General Elections

posted Oct 2, 2015, 8:59 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Oct 3, 2015, 12:14 PM ]
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.

Election Commission

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


Sikyong Campaign

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.

Chitue Campaign 

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.

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