The Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies (ATPD), which is the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, has elected a new Chairman on March 15, 2002 while reelecting the Vice Chairman for a new term. ATPD is the highest legislative organ of the Tibetans in exile. It was instituted in 1960. The creation of this democratically-elected body was one of the major changes that the Dalai Lama has brought about in his efforts to democratize the Tibetan society.

The ATPD is headed by a Chairman and a Vice-Chairman, who are elected by the deputies amongst themselves.

Mr. Pema Jungney (Sakya) was elected by a vote of 25 while Mr. Karma Choephel (U-Tsang), the other candidate secured 18 votes. Mr. Choephel had been serving as the Chairman since September 2001. Ms. Dolma Gyari (Dhotoe) was re-elected as the Vice Chairman by a vote of 32. The elections were held in Dharamsala and supervised by the Tibetan Election Commission.

In an interview to Voice of Tibet radio soon after his election on March 15, 2002 Mr. Jungney said his supporters had asked him to be just and to work according to the spirit of the Charter in exile. Asked about his action plans for the ATPD, Mr. Jungney said he would work on it gradually. He said above all he would attempt to follow the guidelines provided by the Dalai Lama.

Meanwhile, Mr. Karma Choephel told the Voice of Tibet that there were reasons behind the development leading to his loss of the Chairmanship but he refused to go into details saying it was useless at this stage.

Mr Pema Jungney finished his high school from the Central School for Tibetans in Shimla. Thereafter, he joined the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Varanasi, attaining an Acharya degree (equivalent to Masters).

He was elected to the 10th ATPD in 1986 as a Sakya representative, and was re-elected to the 11th Assembly.

Ms. Gyari won by a margin of 32 votes against Mr. Namgyal Wangdu (U-Tsang), who got three votes.

Ms Gyari after completing her education from Darjeeling Central Schools for Tibetans, did her BA in Political Science from Panjab University in Chandigarh, Punjab.

She was first elected to the Parliament in 1991 as a Dhotoe representative, and subsequently re-elected in in 1996 and 2001.

The ATPD consists of 46 elected members. U-Tsang, Dhotoe (Kham) and Dhome (Amdo), the three traditional provinces of Tibet, elect 10 members each while the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the traditional Bon faith elect two members each. Three deputies are elected by Tibetans in the West: two from Europe and one from North America. In addition, three members with distinction in the fields of art, science, literature and community service are nominated directly by the Dalai Lama.

Any Tibetan who has reached the age of 25 years has the right to contest elections to the ATPD. The elections are held every five years and any Tibetan who has reached the age of 18 years is entitled to vote.

Sessions of the ATPD are held twice every year, with an interval of six months between the sessions. However, the Dalai Lama can summon extraordinary sessions of the Assembly in the case of national emergencies.

The newly-elected Chairman and Vice Chairman will take their oath of office before the Dalai Lama on March 16 and thereafter begin the budget session of the ATPD. This session will last till the end of March. During this session, the ATPD will discuss a work report from the Chairman of the Tibetan Cabinet, Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche.