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Open Letter from TNC to Election Commission, 20 Nov. 2015

posted Nov 23, 2015, 7:36 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Dec 1, 2015, 5:46 PM ]

[Tibetan version below]



November 20th, 2015

Dear Mr. Chief Election Commissioner Sonam Choephel Shosur la:

As you know, on August 26, 2015, I wrote to the Election Commission (EC) on behalf of the Tibetan National Congress (TNC), a Tibetan political party.  We requested official “recognition,” which the EC now requires for participation in the Tibetan election process without restrictions on free speech rights.  The EC announced this new rule in June 2015, just a few months before the primary vote.

In your reply to our letter, you stated that the EC has no jurisdiction on granting recognition, and that we should write to the Kashag (Cabinet) for recognition.  You did not address our key question on how the EC will ensure that the effects of its rule are fair and depoliticized while requiring a political body like the Kashag to recognize TNC.

On September 2, 2015 (Tibetan Democracy Day), at your instruction we wrote to the Kashag and personally to Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, requesting recognition – or at least an explanation why it would not be given.  Two months later, we have yet to receive any reply or acknowledgement.  With the Kashag’s refusal to even respond to our request, it appears that the EC has laid a path that leads to a locked door — or perhaps a door guarded by a party with a conflict of interest.  Since the EC apparently has no power to unlock the door, I respectfully suggest that the EC should reassess the fairness of the path.

Otherwise this rule – granting an effective veto to the incumbent Sikyong as he seeks another term – does not bode well for Tibetan democracy.  A group of esteemed Tibet supporters wrote to the Sikyong and EC that “no legitimate democratic system can allow one candidate in an election to decide which groups get to speak or spend freely in that election.”<1>  This point was reiterated by a group of election monitors, who called for “leveling the playing field of campaign finance and allowing all independent and outside the recognized groups to campaign for a candidate.”<2>  Clearly, outside groups see this system as discriminatory and unfair.

Why do we care so much about “recognition”?  Because lacking recognition, TNC has already been irreparably harmed in our ability to participate in the democratic process.  It has been like wrestling with both hands tied behind our back, while groups supporting the incumbents are unbound.  From the beginning of this election season, TNC had to negotiate candidates’ written permission before we could even issue a statement of support for them.  Every rupee or dollar we spend — even for a single poster — has to be documented and counted toward the candidates’ strict spending cap.  We have had to cancel planned travel for meetings and campaign events to avoid the candidate breaching their expense cap.

Meanwhile, “recognized” groups like NDPT and Utsang Tsokpa have been freely supporting their candidates through endorsements, fliers, banners in settlements, etc.  They do not have to account for any of their expenditures.  They have been free to spend whatever they wish to promote the incumbent candidates.

As shown by the EC’s 20% requirement amendment to the election by-laws on selecting the final Sikyong candidates (which the EC announced 2 days after the preliminary vote) the EC clearly seems to exercise significant power and discretion.  Therefore, we respectfully repeat our request for a temporary exemption to the EC’s rule requiring official recognition until such time as (i) the Kashag grants us recognition, or (ii) if the Kashag refuses us recognition, the Supreme Justice Commission rules on our appeal of such decision.

Mr. Election Commissioner, we have followed your instructions on seeking “recognition”.  Your process has led us to a dead end.  Our lack of “recognition” has already caused irreparable harm: the primary season is now over, and TNC will never recover those missed months to campaign freely.  And as the final election draws near, every passing day exacerbates the unlevel playing field we face.

Mr. Election Commissioner, we are not asking that the EC force the Kashag to do anything.  We are merely asking for the EC to grant us temporary relief from your restrictions — to treat us no differently than the “recognized” groups — since the Kashag does not appear to be inclined to respond.

Mr. Election Commissioner, you responded to the letter by the esteemed Tibet supporters by claiming that our Tibetan democracy “cannot be compared to the laws of democratic independent countries.”<3>  We respectfully urge you to reconsider this relativism.  We believe our Tibetan democracy must strive to meet the highest standards of fairness and legitimacy.  We believe the example we set in exile illustrates the moral correctness of our cause, and inspires our sisters and brothers in Tibet as to what a free Tibet could look like.

We are hopeful that you will do the fair and honorable thing, and allow TNC to be treated no differently.  That is all we ask.  This is not about any one candidate; this is about the fairness of the Tibetan election process, and ultimately upholding the precious Tibetan democracy.

Respectfully,

Jigme Ugen
President, Tibetan National Congress

1. www.tibet.org/openletter/

2. www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=36633&t=1

3. www.tibet.net/2015/10/clarification-to-the-group-of-tibet-supporters-who-have-expressed-concerns- about-the-tibetan-election-process-in-the-media-dated-13-october-2015/




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The Tibetan Political Review,
Nov 23, 2015, 7:43 PM
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