Two decades been passed in a twinkling of an eye since the exile Tibetan residents first directly elected a Kalon Tripa, the head of the Kashag or Government-in-Exile, now technically known as Central Tibetan Administration, in 2001. In last four elections, Tibetans elected and reelected two professional academic careerists to head the exile government that witnessed H.H the Dalai Lama’s semi and complete retirement from political or state affairs in 2001 and 2011 respectively. In the first ever tryst with direct election to Kalon Tripa, Tibetans in exile voted career-academician Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche followed by Harvard academician Dr. Lobsang Sangay, both of whom managed to win second term.
2021 is altogether moving to a different direction as Tibetans are being thrown in the social media with probable and aspiring candidates of veteran calibre in terms of political background in their career, but none of them having academic credentials that can equal both Prof. Samdhong and Dr. Lobsang Sangay. Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok is an activist turned MP, so is Gyari Dolma and Lobsang Nyandak as well as Penpa Tsering. Aukatsang Kaydor is probably the most unknown face to most of the Tibetans until Dr. Lobsang Sangay appointed him NA Representative and later as chief of SARD in the Finance Department. Drongchung Ngodup is a bureaucrat by career. But he is perhaps the most senior and experienced candidates in terms of career as civil servant. Tashi Wangdue is a former bureaucrat turned businessman and how he will fare in the election is a matter of concern. In the last primary election, he was behind Lukar Jam despite being first to officially declare his candidacy for Sikyong. However, there are three probable candidates who had been protégé of former Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche, one protégé of incumbent Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay.
This year, the Tibetan electors are undertaking electoral participation under numerous new regulations on account of amendment to the Electoral Rules and Regulations, 2000. The terms and conditions to be Sikyong candidates are well laid down in the Tibetan Charter. Rest lies with people’s mandate.
In the primary election, we are not going to decide who will be Sikyong, but who will receive nominations for Sikyong candidacy. However, if any of the probables secures more than 60% in the primary, he/she shall be declared Sikyong-Elect without requiring a final or second round. If someone receives more than 51% and no rival candidates, he shall be declared Sikyong-Elect. One must bear these two in mind before electing.
My vote must go to someone who has clear policy, direction and sincerity, not a glamor, someone who has parliamentary and cabinet experience. Someone who has sad in the parliament and faced it. My Sikyong candidates must have the following qualities which are outside the Tibetan Charter to be fulfilled:
1. The future Sikyong must have the ability to gather fund 2. Someone who can bring unity and integrity. 3. Someone who can implement the views of H.H Dalai Lama and policies of the Central Tibetan Administration 4. Someone who not only bear bookish knowledge, but has the ground reality experience of Tibet situation, 5. Someone who can bring continuity to the Tibetan struggle for truth and freedom, 6. And finally, a one who can go shoulder to shoulder with world leaders and dignitaries.
It is important that regionalism, provincialism, and sectarianism play no role in selecting a candidate for Sikyong. We must be proud that we are in a situation to exercise democracy while no other refugee entities can equal us in this. We must not prove our democracy otherwise but must work towards ensuring that others can look up to us in our election and become cynosure of all eyes. H.H Dalai Lama bless us democracy and we must know how to accept and exercise the blessings.