, DHARAMSALA, India, Mar 20 – Tens of thousands of exiled Tibetans voted Sunday for a new leader tasked with sustaining their struggle for greater autonomy in the Chinese-ruled province as the Dalai Lama retreats from the political frontline.
While Tibetans from across the world were geared up to vote, those in the picturesque Indian hill town of Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama lives started lining up at booths at 9am (0330 GMT) to elect the next leader of the government-in-exile.
- The post of prime minister in exile was a low-profile role before the 80-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader devolved power in an attempt to lessen his own totemic status and foster a democratic setup to keep Tibet's freedom movement alive after his death.
- The Dalai Lama announced his decision in March 2011, just days before the election of the incumbent prime minister - or Sikyong - Lobsang Sangay, who is standing again.
One by one, hundreds including monks and nuns scribbled the names of their favourite candidates on pieces of paper and slipped them into green ballot boxes as polls were set to close around 5pm.
The post of prime minister in exile was a low-profile role before the 80-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader devolved power in an attempt to lessen his own totemic status and foster a democratic setup to keep Tibet’s freedom movement alive after his death.
While many felt voting could help their campaign against Chinese rule over their Himalayan homeland, several were sceptical given the government-in-exile’s lack of effective power.
“I am not sure whether the democratic system can help in Tibet’s freedom struggle,” said Rikten, a 28-year-old teacher who gave one name, after voting.
“But its values and rights can definitely… bring more awareness on the Tibetan cause.”