Tibetan poll frontrunner promises continuity

Lobsang Sangay, frontrunner among the three aspirants for the post of the Prime minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile (TGIE) has said that if elected, he would ensure the continuity of the peaceful process for seeking independence for Tibet.

Participating in the debate in the run-up to the election to the post of the prime minister on March 20, Sangay said he would toe the path laid down by the supreme leader of the Tibetans in exile, the Dalai Lama.

The election, in which Tibetan exiles all over the world will vote, has assumed significance in the light of the announcement by the Dalai Lama that he would be retiring from active politics. The results of the election will be published by the end of April.

Although elections have taken place for the post of the prime minister who is the executive head of the government with the Dalai Lama being the spiritual head, the current election will see the winner as the virtual leader of the exiled Tibetans and the chief negotiator on their behalf for talks with China which has occupied Tibet since 1959.

The last two elections in 2001 and 2006 had not evinced as much interest as the ensuing one, with the exiled Tibetans taking a close look at the man who will be leading for the next and crucial five years, in the absence of the Dalai Lama as their leader. Samdhong Rinpoche, who won the last two elections to head the government for 10 years is not in the race.

The debate between Sangay and the other two contenders, Tashi Wangdi and Kasur Tenzin Namgyal Tethong, was broadcast on radio, telecast on TV and hosted by internet was beamed at the Delar Community Hall at Bylakuppe near Kushalnagar. the largest Tibetan settlement in India. Tethong spoke from Washington, while Sangay and Wangdi took part in the debate from Dharamsala, the seat of the TGIE.

Sangay, a guest faculty at the Harvard University of Law, appears to be ahead of Tethong, who lives in Washington DC, US and Wangdi,  the TGIE representative to the European Union (EU).

Organised by Tibetan Service of Radio Free Asia, the debate, which was the last opportunity  saw an intense discussion among the three aspirants about the future of Tibet.

Sangay said replacing the Dalai Lama at the head of the movement of the Tibetan exiles was a daunting challenge, but he was prepared to accept it.

A representative of the Tibetan Youth Congress at Bylakuppe, however tried to play down the impression that the election would decide the successor to the Dalai Lama.
“The discussion about a successor to the Dalai Lama has not begun yet,” he said.

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