By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 3 December 2020
Temperature is rising by the day in the heated election campaigns for the upcoming 2021 exile Tibetan elections for a new Sikyong (political leader) and the members of the Tibetan Parliament. There’s one month until the preliminary round of voting on 3 January to decide the candidates.
Walls are covered with campaign posters, and the social media is abuzz with campaign material. The Coronavirus pandemic has restricted campaigning in the traditional ways with large public gatherings. Online platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp have become the new norm for campaigning. Only a few went around to campaign at various settlements or Tibetan clusters in the US and Europe.
After the preliminary round of voting, the Election Commission will announce two Sikyong candidates, and 20 candidates for each province to elect 10 members each for the three provinces, to vote for in the final round on 11 April. Four candidates each will be announced for the five religious sects, four candidates will also be announced for Europe and the Americas to elect two representatives each. Two candidates will be announced for Australasia, excluding India, Nepal and Bhutan, to elect one representative.
Compared to the last elections in 2016, there are more aspirants for the post of Sikyong, as well as for members of Parliament, called Chithue in Tibetan.
Voters in India, Nepal, and Bhutan will elect a total of 40 members of Parliament, for the three provinces and the 10 religious representatives. The total population of Tibetans in India as on September 2019 is 73,404. The number of voters in these three countries is 55,683. Five members are elected by Tibetans from the rest of the world, with 24,014 registered voters. The biggest voters in India are from Mundgod with a population of 8,604, Dharamshala with 8,214, Bylakuppe 8,095, and Ladakh 7,041. Sataun settlement in Himachal state would have the least number of voters as the population there is 162.
There are certain things that confuse the voters in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. When voting for ten candidates, at least two have to be female, and the spaces for these two are separately allotted at the bottom, after the list of eight. But this doesn’t mean that they cannot vote for more female candidates. If they want, all ten could be female candidates, but at least two have to be women.
Another confusion is that, a voter doesn’t have to fill all the ten slots. It could be just one name.
What do you have to say about the upcoming elections? What are your concerns? What are your criteria for Sikyong and Chithues? What do you expect the new Sikyong to fulfill and the Chithues to do?