By Lobsang Wangyal
MCLEOD GANJ, India, 12 October 2015
Tibetans in exile are getting ready to elect their new political leader (Sikyong), and a new Parliament of 45 members, when they go to the polls on Sunday.
Election fever has gripped the capital of the Tibetan diaspora, McLeod Ganj. The walls of the narrow streets are adorned with campaign posters of various candidates, and cafés are reverberating with election debates.
According to the Election Commission of the Central Tibetan Administration, the number of registered voters is up to 87,000, of which the maximum are from India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Out of these, U-Tsang has around 45,700 voters, Kham has around 20,000, and Amdo around 4,300.
The number of registered voters in Europe is about 5,600, and around 9,800 have registered in North America. There are approximately 950 voters in Australia and the rest of Asia.
There will be an estimated 60 polling centres around the world, where exile Tibetans are expected to exercise their franchise in the first round of the two-stage general elections.
Five people have thrown in their names in contest for the post of Sikyong, but the voters can also nominate others. Incumbent Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, and the Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile Penpa Tsering are among the contenders for the top job.
Tibetans in India, Nepal, and Bhutan will elect 30 members of the Parliament, choosing ten representatives from each of the three provinces of Tibet. An additional ten religious representatives will be elected by monks and nuns, each electing two each from their respective sects (of the four Tibetan Buddhist sects and Bon religion).
The first popular elections in 2011 saw the current Sikyong Lobsang Sangay winning the top post with a landslide majority. He won with 55% of the votes, beating his nearest rival, veteran diplomat Tenzin Namgyal Tethong.
The results of the preliminary round will be declared at respective polling centres within 24 hours after the counting of the votes. The election Commission will examine the results, and the top in the list will be then declared as candidates for the final round of voting on 20 March next year.