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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

TWA mock election for Kalon Tripa well received

July 9, 2010

By Tenzin Tsering
July 7, 2010

Dharamsala, July 6 - "I realized my Green book
was required to cast my vote. I had to run home
to get it. I will be better prepared on October
3rd.” said Lobsang Jamyang, a 21 year old Tibetan
who participated in the Tibetan Womens’
Association’s (TWA) ‘Kalon Tripa Mock Election’
yesterday on the occasion of the 75th birthday of the Dalai Lama.

With only 3 months for the Preliminary election
of Kalon Tripa scheduled for Oct 3 and the Final
election on March 20 2011, the organization “is
confident that the mock election will throw the
much needed light on the process, candidates,
voter participation and effectively educate the
Tibetan electorate to exercise their franchise” ,
said Tseyang Oshoe, General Secretary of TWA,
which held similar elections across Tibetan communities worldwide.

The last Kalon Tripa’s election in 2006 saw a
barely quarter of the eligible Tibetan voters
exercising their franchise. Estimates show that
of the eligible voters, only 60% registered to
vote and in the eventual a mere 28.6% voted.

Citing "poor awareness" as the primary cause for
the low voter turnout in the 2006 elections, the
organization believes that today’s Mock Election
will serve as a “wake up call” to the Tibetan
citizens and "aims to push the voter turnout to
75%" in the 2011 elections, said Dolkar Lhamo
Kirti, President of the Tibetan Women’s Association.

Dolma Gyari, Deputy Speaker of the Tibetan
Parliament who participated in the mock election
lauded "TWA’s initiative towards spreading
awareness on the importance of exercising one’s
right to vote, which will further the growth of
democracy in our exile community."

"I commend TWA’s endeavor in bringing out such a
wide scale awareness campaign on the Kalon Tripa
election which is in the offing, but I also wish
the same could be done for the election of the
Members of Parliament (chithue)" said Pempa
Tsering, Speaker of the Parliament who also took
part in the mock election, at the Main Temple.

In 2001, Rinpoche became the first directly
elected prime minister with an overwhelming
majority after the Dalai Lama, as part of an
effort to further democratize the Tibetan polity
in 2000, called for a directly elected leader of
the Tibetans living in exile. He was again
re-elected in 2006, with another landslide victory.

There is an apparent wish, in particular from the
older generation of the Tibetan exiles that "If
Rinpoche could stand for the third time in the
Kalon Tripa Election,” said a hopeful 68 yr old Dolma Yangzom.

However, the Tibetan Charter bars any individual
from holding the office for more than 2 terms like other democratic nations.

The Mock election also surfaced the dilemma
Tibetan people may have in choosing their
candidate for Kalon Tripa as many seem still in
the dark on who to cast their votes. “ I am
little clueless at the moment, the names that
have been circulating around as possible
candidates for Kalon Tripa are not very familiar
to me,” said one confused Tibetan at the polling booth.

Though the entire day witnessed a heavy downpour,
the polling booth at the Main Temple
(Tsuglagkhang) where all the eligible voters in
Dharamsala and other Tibetan pockets in Kangra
District are invited to participate, saw a many
enthusiastic participants as well.

"I see it as a dress rehearsal. I think this will
be a helpful experiment to the Tibetans and
educate them on how to properly cast their votes
in the coming elections,” said a monk after casting his vote.

Other than holding awareness campaigns on the
elections, TWA says it will completely refrain
from endorsing or nominating any particular
candidate for the Kalon Tripa elections.

At the end of the day, Dhardon Sharling from TWA
expressed that "though the voter turnout was only
20% of the eligible voters in Dharamsala, the
entire process of the mock election proved to be
transformative and educational to those who
participated and drew curiosity from the rest."

 From July 16 to 22, executive members of
regional chapters of TWA will bring the ballots
together in Manali for an aggregate and
transparent counting. On September 10, the
organization will produce a detailed report on
voter participation, and names of the candidates
elected by the voters in the Mock election.
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