Penpa Tsering Projected Winner in Race for Sikyong, Tibetan Exile Leader

Penpa Tsering, former speaker of Tibet’s exile parliament, looks set to win the vote for political leader, or Sikyong, of Tibet’s Dharamsala, India-based exile government the Central Tibetan Administration, final counting shows.

With votes counted in the U.S. on Friday, 33,924 ballots have now been cast for Tsering, compared with 28,595 cast for rival candidate Aukatsang Kelsang Dorjee, a former representative of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, according to unofficial counting by RFA.

Official results won’t be announced until May 14, but Tsering now leads with a comfortable margin of 5,329.

More than 83,000 Tibetans living in 26 countries around the world went to the polls on April 11 to cast their ballots in the third and final round of voting for Sikyong.

Lobsang Sangay, a Harvard-trained scholar of law, has served two consecutive five-year terms as Sikyong, an office filled by candidates elected since 2011 by popular vote, and will leave that post when his present term expires in May.

The May 14 election results will also seat 45 members of the exile Tibetan parliament in its new, seventeenth session, with 10 candidates representing each of Tibet’s three traditional provinces—U-tsang, Kham, and Amdo—and two representatives from each of Tibet’s four major schools of Buddhism and the pre-Buddhist Bon religion.

Two members will also be voted in to represent each of the exile Tibetan communities in North and South America and Europe, and one from Australia and Asia, excluding India, Nepal, and Bhutan.

The Tibetan diaspora is estimated to include about 150,000 people living in 40 countries, mainly India, Nepal, North America, and in Europe.

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago, following which the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India and other countries around the world.

Divisions persist in the Tibetan exile community over how best to advance the rights and freedoms of Tibetans living in China, with some calling for a restoration of the independence lost when Chinese troops marched into Tibet in 1950.

The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and the Dalai Lama have instead adopted a policy approach called the Middle Way, which accepts Tibet’s status as a part of China but urges greater cultural and religious freedom, including strengthened language rights, for Tibetans living under Beijing’s rule.

Both Tsering and Aukatsang support the Middle Way.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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