In the midst of Covid-19, Tibetans will vote for their president on January 2021. There are eight candidates. In the 2016 contest between Sangay and Penpa Tsering, Sangay won 10,000 more votes than his rival, scooping up nearly 34,000 votes against 24,000. Penpa Tsering is running again, and he has a base of 24,000 loyalists. One would have thought Penpa Tsering is the most promising candidate since Sangay can’t run any more.
But all is not well for Penpa Tsering. Now there is a new boy in town, and his name is Dongchung Ngodup, a veteran bureaucrat and a trusted conservative politician popular with Samdhong Rinpoche and Dharamsala old guards. These are the same group of people who would have voted for Penpa Tsering if Dongchung Ngodup wasn’t running. If split in half, each candidate can bank on at least 12,000 votes each.
On the other hand, in the camp of Lobsang Sangay loyalists, his 34 K isn’t going to be solidly inherited by one individual, but will also have to be divided. Gyari Dolma and Kaydor Aukatsang have to divide the pie between them, where an exact half would amount to 17,000 votes each.
But of course, deductions have to made for other candidates, but this isn’t likely to change the outcome to any significant extent. After the ballots on 23 January, only two candidates will be allowed to compete in the final contest, as per an announcement by the Election Commission. This decision was received by the public in a low-key manner, but the question of who will win the presidency depends a lot on whether two or three candidates are allowed.
Population-dense constituencies with the most fish to catch are Bylakupee (4,000 votes), Dhasa (4,000 votes) and Mundgod (3,500 votes).
According to speculations, Penpa Tsering and Dongchung Ngodup will each pick the other for a minister role if one wins. Ditto for Gyari Dolma and Kaydor Aukatsang. Other candidates are not taken seriously by the public. Tashi Topgyal from Shillong was discounted as a buffoon. Tashi Wangdue as a mama’s boy, and Lobsang Nyendak as low-energy and lackluster. And Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok as a plant by wily Gyari Dolma to divide Penpa Tshering’s U-Tsang votes, who is promised a house in return.
Kaydor Aukatsang is hopping continents and countries talking about his manifestoes, with mask on and social distance. Kaydor doesn’t shy away from his intention to continue Lobsang Sangay’s legacy. This brave declaration will not win any votes from erstwhile Penpa Tsering voters, but can solidly bank on LS loyalists. Penpa Tsering thought such physical campaigns irresponsible, and chose to speak to voters online every Saturday. Gyari Dolma and Dongchung Ngodup seem to take neutral positions, in a strategy to antagonize as few voters as possible by neither distancing nor embracing Lobsang Sangay.
This is going to be the most tightly-fought election battle ever. No one can tell who can win. But all must fight their best.
16 November 2020
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily that of Tibet Sun