A Historic Katri Election 2011

By Tenzin P. Pamnor
Never in the history of exile government was so enamoured by the last year Tibetan Prime ministerial (Kalon Tripa) election following the termination of Prof Samdhong Rinpochy’s second tenure. The wind of electoral campaign spread far ahead of actual election itself as people not only began to endorse manifold candidates both also specifically planned and harboured hard to put the Havard graduate Dr. Lobsang Sangye to Katri Chair.

This election has three significant things to be taken into account. First it was first ever direct Prime Minister Election where two veterans had rival from a young promising Harvardian scholar. Secondly, it was post 2008 Beijing Olympics during which the most prominent protest took place in the whole of Tibet against Chinese government. And finally, the sudden but vaguely planned complete retirement announcement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from Tibetan political activities.

Tibetan democracy unfortunately or fortunately was born in India with a blessing gift from its patron His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Personally for me this is the most precious blessing ever for the Tibetan people. The very same gift was kept so profoundly and faithfully that the diasporas people never spearhead any new changes or amendments to the democracy gifted to its exile people. We fondly celebrate September 2, as democracy day though there is not a pinch of democracy in our mainland Tibet. Tibetans in people and government in exile particularly the parliament never took any further steps to practically democratise the diasporas owing to the complete faith in whatever blessing his holiness offered. In fact, this is the offer that must carry forward to and further subject to any sort of stronger democratisation.

Sensing the need for changes, His Holiness again took another step further in 1991 by dissolving the Parliament and authorising them to elect the prime minister themselves rather than by the nomination from His Holiness. However, Tibetans have never rejected His Holiness' offer as it is more of a blessing than a gift. But most of us are not quite acquainted with modern democracy and therefore many can’t answer what model of democracy we are following; Parliamentary or Presidential. The latter view can be rejected right away as neither have we had president nor have we chosen. However, the manner in which the Prime minister’s election and the national assembly (Parliament-in –Exile) coincide is very unique blend not found in any of the democratic world. It’s more of a blend of parliamentary and prime ministerial supremacy. This question will continue to linger in my mind until Tibet become fully independent republic state.

The fact that I am a political science, it gives me ample of interest and scope to experience and enjoy any election year where I would be kept mentally occupied more with these events than any other events. Every time I reached office (at that time I was working) I make it point to surf net to check who was moving ahead in endorsement for Kalon Tripa candidacy. Though personally my choice for prime minister had not been Dr. Lobsang Sangyey la, I was really surprised by the amount of people’s awareness in the last year’s election. For the first time we have seen large number of increase in the section of voters in colleges and monasteries. The campaign could be near like United State’s presidential election. Even more surprising was the day and date for the oath taking ceremony by the youngest prime minister. Even before the commencement of general election for the Kalon Tripa, the endorsement itself was convincingly evident that the first ever Harvard graduate would be the political heir to the Dalai Lama.

First I saw a large number of candidates including high profile Tibetan leading like Lobsang Nyadak (the former minister in Prof. Samdhong Rinpochy), Penpa Tsering (incumbent speaker),Gyari Dolma (a two time and the first ever deputy speaker, Parliament-in-Exile), Tethong Tenzin Namgyal (former prime minister), Tashi Wangdue (former minister), Dr. Lobsang Sangyey etals. However, later it narrowed4 down to only three main candidates in the nominations that of Kasur Tashi Wangdue, Trisur Tenzin T. Namgyal and Dr. Lobsang Sangyey. The fight was more between the latter two rather than the big three as Kasur Tashi Wangdu la was more or less reluctant to stand for the election. The sudden announcement of His Holiness (though signalled earlier) has exacerbated the electoral mania.

For the first time, the candidates were to face the public by travelling to different Tibetan settlements particularly in United States and India. India being the seat of Tibetan government and His Holiness residence caught the fullest attention of the Tibetan people in this election. It wasn’t only Tibetans even BBC World interviewed the newly elected prime minister. I also have watched the NDTV 24x7 interviewing Dr. Lobsang Sangyey soon after he assumed office of prime minister.

Also for the first time, Tibetan diasporas has closely contested candidates for prime minister after a decade of introduction of direct election of Kalon Tripa. Even Tibetans inside Tibet had got an implicit say if not explicit in the choice of the kalon tripa. In concise, Tibetans in and around world made a historic movement in vibrating democracy not only by election first ever youngest Kalon Tripa, but also made a general shift in the political responsibility by electing first ever Indian born Harvadian to the prime minister’s office as Dalai Lama’s political heir. Personally I was amused and impressed by the manner in which he painstakingly nominated his council of ministers (Kalons). The best of the best he did was nomination of Gyari Dolma, former deputy speaker, Parliament as minister of home. Kasur Pema Choejor too made a comeback to the ministry he held more than a decade ago with his nomination of the young Kalon Tripa. Nomination of Diki Chhoyang, a less known face in india but prominent persona in North America is a prudent choice as minister for Information and International relations. By keeping education department with himself, he evinced his priority in the exile community as education.

With a mix of both aspiring youth Kalon Tripa and team of veteran ministers, Dr Lobsang Sangyey is not only heading a tough and steel made cabinet but also a promising cabinet. His promise of returning His Holiness back to Tibet in the near future raised a colossal of hope among Tibetans all over the world. I was also happy to watch the oath taking ceremony of Dr. Lobsang Sangey in the presence of His Holiness and the supreme justice commission. With the youth coming to take over the helms, an answer has been sent to China without question that the next generation is alive and waking up for the call of freedom. The only thing we still need to labour is to produce such snow lion (Dr.Lobsang Sangyey) as many as possible in the near future if His Holiness should truly return to Tibet. May we see His Holiness and us return to Independent Tibet Republic.

NOTE-- Tenzin P. Pamnor is a senior student specializing in political science in Madras Christian College, Chennai.

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