Musings after the Tibetan Elections of October 3, 2010

On October 3, 2010 the Tibetans in Diaspora took another step in the direction of determining their own political destiny through a worldwide (outside of Tibet and China, of course) election to select who should act on their behalf in this effort.

These elections will continue to become important until there is a political solution as they touch the very core of the issue, namely the legitimacy of the rule. Unlike other movements, the Tibetan movement enjoys that rare privilege of having a unified leadership institution in the form of an administrative structure formally known as the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). Tibetans may have issues against some of its policies, people may not like some of the personalities who serve this administration but there is no one Tibetan that denies its legitimacy. That has been the Tibetan movement’s strength, something very much perceived by those in the Chinese leadership who are against any reconciliation on the issue of Tibet.

Over the years efforts have been made by the Chinese authorities to undermine the CTA, create discord between the Tibetan people and the CTA, and make it irrelevant. In the process they have attempted to pitch Tibetans against Tibetans, whether it is favoring a select few disgruntled “overseas Tibetans” with various incentives or using writings of individuals like Jamyang Norbu (excerpting those sections that help their case) to present a very dismal and disunited picture of Tibetans in exile.

Similarly, the instability that has been the highlight of the Nepalese Government has provided the Chinese Government with willing officials there who play into their hands to deny basic and fundamental rights to Tibetan refugees in Nepal. On October 3 we witnessed on such attempts when local officials seized ballot boxes from the Tibetan community in Nepal’s capital, who were participating in this worldwide elections.

The above highlights the very unique environment under which Tibetans in exile are experimenting with democracy. The upcoming Tibetan leadership will have to think of ways to overcome these challenges.

But there is a message for all Tibetans, too. We must all do whatever possible to strengthen Tibetan democracy by being active participants in this process. Using our freedom of speech is very much a part of this process as also is being responsible for what we say and do. Similarly, we should be able to walk the talk. In the next several days we will get to know the voter turnout for the primary elections held on October 3. I hope this will be one of the highest turnouts that we have had.


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