By Lobsang Wangyal
ON THE WEB, 16 February 2016
In one month’s time, it will be clear if the incumbent Sikyong Lobsang Sangay is re-elected, or Penpa Tsering will surprise us. The two are the final candidates for the post of Sikyong 2016.
For the final round of voting in the Tibetan General Election 2016 on 20 March, Sangay being the incumbent has the upper hand, but Penpa Tsering’s challenge will provide tough competition. The voting results will start to trickle in the day after the election, and after a few days we will know the winner. Tibet Sun will update with the results as in the preliminary round.
Sangay led the preliminary round of voting in October by a huge margin, but since then he has been dogged by a few accusations.
The most serious concern has been his request for a Kalachakra ceremony to be held right before the 2016 election. This was seen as very self-serving, since in his current position as Sikyong he would be required to attend alongside the Dalai Lama, and his presence at this great teaching and empowerment would provide him with an unfair level of visibility right ahead of the election.
The Kalachakra 2016 has now been postponed until January 2017, and the postponement has caused much debate in Tibetan society and worry for Sangay, with this image of being selfish working against him now. He has vehemently denied any wrongdoing whatsoever.
Another serious accusation is that he removed a portrait of the Dalai Lama in the Office of Tibet in Washington DC and put his own portrait in its place. Despite his repeated clarifications that this was never done, the issue has become one of the serious campaign spoilers for him.
The uproar about the source of money to purchase his house in Boston with a lump sum payment has been discussed before. But it has since died down perhaps due to clear and proper explanation that his instalments for the purchase of the house from his Harvard salary ended after his decision to join the Kalon Tripa race, and that he had paid the remaining mortgage from the savings of himself and his wife.
His supporters say Sangay should be given one more five-year term so that Tibetans could benefit from the experience he has gained in the last five years. Also he would then be able to complete the projects and programmes that he had initiated.
Penpa Tsering contends that he would provide better governance given his twenty years of experience in CTA as a member of Parliament, including two terms as a Speaker. He is particularly banking on his election victory in the Gangkyi area, the capital of the Tibetan Diaspora [seat of the CTA], in the preliminary round, saying that CTA staff members would be the best judges of himself and Sangay.
Penpa Tsering also won from Washington DC, the capital of the United States, where most of the Tibetan voters work in the Tibetan-language sections of the US government-funded media houses Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America. He has been arguing that people in these two places have better knowledge of Tibetan politics.
Those who are against Penpa Tsering have accused him of killing a former lama, whose wife he later lived with for a few years. He has denied the charge and has challenged anyone to prove him guilty.
The main responsibilities of the post of Sikyong are to work for a free Tibet and for the welfare of the Tibetans in exile. Who do you think would make a better Sikyong? Who has your vote — Lobsang Sangay or Penpa Tsering, and why?