Parliament disapproves one-time voting proposed by Cabinet

Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile Khenpo Sonam Tenphel speaks during the opening of the 45-member House on 18 September 2018.

Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile Khenpo Sonam Tenphel speaks during the opening of the 45-member House on 18 September 2018. Tibet Sun/Lobsang Wangyal

By Lobsang Wangyal

McLEOD GANJ, India, 27 September 2018

Members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile rejected the Cabinet’s proposal to conduct exile Tibetan elections in one go in electing the President of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and the members of the exile Tibetan Parliament, instead of the current process of two-time voting with preliminary and final rounds.

During the debate in the house on Tuesday, Monlam Tharchin said that such a change needs an amendment to the Charter of the exile Tibetan people.

To amend the Charter, a quorum is needed of two-third of the members in the house; the Cabinet didn’t have a quorum. Only a single member supported the proposal from among 45 members in the House.

Due to the lack of political parties, a preliminary round of voting is conducted to select candidates, followed by a final round of voting to elect from the candidates approved by the Election Commission.

The last two elections, particularly the 2016 Sikyong (President of CTA) elections, rift apart the exile Tibetan community on the basis of regionalism. The aftermath is still affecting the Tibetan community around the world as fighting among two main groups arose from the last election.

The campaigning was fierce between Lobsang Sangay and his rival Penpa Tsering, with both the candidates seen criticising each other more on non-issues than on real issues. The supporters of both sides took up the campaigns and their support became personal, creating division and an atmosphere of animosity. This led the Dalai Lama to intervene, declaring that the elections were over and the differences should be left behind.

Sangay won, but even after the Dalai Lama’s suggestions Sangay saw unprecedented protests at many places from the members of the opposition group.

The purpose of the proposal for one-time voting, put forward by the Cabinet led by Sangay, was to eliminate acrimonious campaigning, as well as to save the coffers of the CTA from an unnecessary extra election exercise.

Sangay argued that from past experience those who led in both the President and Parliamentary elections also won in the second round of voting.

He also said that the long campaigning period is being used by Chinese agents in inflaming the unfavourable situation.

Members who vouched support for two rounds of voting argued that voting twice provided voters more time for understanding their candidates better.

Following the Parliament’s lack of acceptance of the proposal for one round of voting, the Cabinet on Thursday proposed a few changes in the election rules. The Parliament then approved a rule change that the Election Commission shall propose a minimum of two candidates for the post of CTA’s president. Should there be a tie in the second position, the EC will declare three candidates for the final round of voting.

A candidate shall be declared elected to the post of CTA’s president should that person gets 60% of the total votes in the first preliminary round of voting.

The other major change is that no exile Tibetan organisations or associations shall declare a candidate for the post of CTA president.

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