More than 82,000 exile Tibetans across the diaspora vote today (March 20) for the new Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister), who will head the Tibetan administration in exile. The election has a particular significance because it follows the Dalai Lama’s statement to the Tibetan Parliament on March 10 of his intention to devolve political authority to an elected leadership.

The mood of optimism across the diaspora was marred by the news that more than 10,000 Tibetans in Nepal did not get permission to vote today from the Nepalese authorities in Kathmandu, under increasing pressure from the Chinese government. During the earlier round of voting in Nepal on October 3, 2010, Kathmandu police confiscated ballot boxes and shut down the Tibetan community voting sites (ICT report, Nepalese police seize ballot boxes from Tibetan exile election).

More than 82,000 Tibetans have registered to vote for the elections scheduled on March 20, 2011. They will be electing the Kalon Tripa, the Chairman of the Cabinet, as well as 44 members of the Tibetan Parliament. The Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) is the head of the Central Tibetan Administration, as the Tibetan Government-in-Exile is formally known, which is based in Dharamsala, India.

Mary Beth Markey, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “The March 20 Tibetan election for the chief executive of the Tibetan government in exile and Tibetan parliament in exile is an historic one. These elected representatives will likely be faced with the full responsibility of governing as the Dalai Lama seeks to give up his last remaining governmental roles. The new Tibetan government will be a significant step forward in a long reform process envisioned by the Dalai Lama in Tibet and realized in exile. “

Tibetans across the world outside Tibet and China will participate in these elections with election booths in various places in Asia, Europe, and the Americas where there is a sizable concentration of Tibetans. Eighty-six regional election offices throughout the world will count the votes and forward the results in secret to Dharamsala.

The elections in India, Brussels, Zurich, New York and Toronto, will be observed by a group from the International Network of Parliamentarians for Tibet (INPaT). Co-Chair of the Network, Italian MP Matteo Mecacci, formally reached an agreement with the Tibetan Election Commission to get its full co-operation and assistance, including the guarantee of full access to polling stations and counting centres. Matteo Mecacci said: “We believe this unique and worldwide Tibetan election process which is an unprecedented achievement for a refugee community needs to be observed and appreciated by the global communities of democracies, in a crucial moment for the future of Tibet, where Chinese authoritarian rule continued unabated.”

Head of the Dharamsala-based Tibetan Election Commission Jamphel Choesang said this weekend that the final checking and compilation of the result will be done in Dharamsala, and the results will be out on April 27. The new Parliament may be in session in June-July, while the new Kalon Tripa should be in place by August. (Tibetan Election Commission).

The three candidates in the running for the Kalon Tripa post are Lobsang Sangay, who has a doctorate in Law from Harvard; Tenzin Namgyal Tethong, a scholar at Stanford and founder of several Tibet organizations who has served as Kalon Tripa before, and Tashi Wangdi, who has served as a member of the Tibetan cabinet and as the Dalai Lama’s representative in Brussels, New York and New Delhi (full biographies at: http://www.kalontripa.org).

Mary Beth Markey, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “His Holiness clearly believes that the power to govern rests with the people. In preparing the Tibetan people for self-governance, he is showing confidence in the many fine Tibetans who have demonstrated leadership throughout this reform continuum. This is a great moment for democracy and bodes well for the future of Tibet and Tibetans.”

Contacts

Mr. Matteo Mecacci, Co-Chair, International Network of Parliamentarians on Tibet (INPaT) election monitoring team (Italy) – +39 347 968 2837

Senator Consiglio Di Nino, INPaT election monitoring team Member (Canada) – + 1 613 943 1454

Ms. Tsering Jampa, INPaT Secretariat Coordinator and Executive Director, International Campaign for Tibet, Europe (Amsterdam) – +31 6 2900 4547, tsering.jampa@savetibet.nl

Mr. Ngawang Choephel [Drakmargyapon], INPaT election monitoring team coordinator (India and Geneva) – +91 (0)78 29221250 / +41 76 575 5731

Mr Kai Mueller, Director, ICT-Germany (Berlin), 49 (0) 30 27879086, kai.mueller@savetibet.de

Ms. Kate Saunders, Communications Director, ICT, – +44 7947 138612, press@savetibet.org