By Lobsang Wangyal
MCLEOD GANJ, India, 10 June 2015
Tibetans in exile will go to the polls to elect a new Sikyong (Prime Minister of the Central Tibetan Administration) and members of the 16th Tibetan Parliament-in-exile in two rounds of polling on 18 October and 20 March 2016.
The dates for the election were announced by the Chief Election Commissioner Sonam Choephel Shosur during a press conference at the headquarters of the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamshala on Wednesday.
Shosur said Tibetans living in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America will exercise their universal franchise on these two dates.
The results will be declared in their respective localities in the 24 hours after the elections take place.
Incumbent Sikyong Lobsang Sangay and the members of the 15th Parliament are ending their five-year terms in March 2016.
Sangay became the first Tibetan to be eleted as the leader of the Tibetans-in-exile after the Dalai Lama gave up his political authority in 2011.
The preliminary and final rounds of pollings will elect a new Sikyong and 45 members to the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile. Ten members each are elected from the three provinces of Tibet – Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang. The four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the traditional Bon faith elect two members each, only by the monks and nuns of their respective religious tradition.
Tibetans in Europe will elect two members, while one each is elected by Tibetans from Canada and the US.
Tibetans in the Australasian and Asian countries other than India, Nepal, and Bhutan will elect a representative for the first time. The Tibetan Parliament created this new seat in March.
Any Tibetan who has reached the age of 35 has the right to contest elections for the post of Sikyong, while anyone 25 years of age can contest elections to the Parliament.
Those contesting for Sikyong could spend up to eight lakh rupees (800,000 Rs, or 12,500 USD approx) for campaigning, while members contesting for parliament could spend up to three lakh rupees (4,600 USD approx).
Shosur also read out a new set of rules for publishing campaign materials, saying photos of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan flag or map, and emblem of the Central Tibetan Administration can not be used.
In 2011, from more than 83,000 Tibetans who had registered to vote in the 2011 elections, 49,000 ballots were cast.
Due to Chinese pressure, Nepalese authorities refused permission for Tibetans to vote in Nepal. Ballot boxes were confiscated after Tibetans voted there in the preliminary round in October 2010.
Shosur said that they will try to conduct elections in Nepal by keeping it low profile.