Cyberspace abuzz ahead of polls to the Tibetan parliament-in-exile

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Dharamsala: Cyberspace is abuzz with activity ahead of the primaries to shortlist candidates for the Tibetan parliament-in-exile.

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Even as the voting is two months away, almost 100 second generation Tibetans have already declared their nominations for the 45-seat parliament-in-exile.

Posters of smart-looking young Tibetans, both men and women, are widely shared and commented on social networks and also adorn the walls of McLeodganj, where thousands of Tibetans and their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, have been living for over half a century.

Smartphone apps like Wechat and Whatsapp are hugely used within the community.

“Technology is the new means; now we connect with the candidates directly. We don’t have to wait for newspaper advertisements to make our choice,” Tashi, a local resident and an avid social networker, told IANS.

“It’s a colorful season. So many people are declaring their nominations. Every other day we see a new nomination. Facebook is full of new faces of aspiring politicians,” he added.

Activists, social workers, businessmen, teachers and even civil service staff from the Tibetan administration are in the fray.

The primaries to nominate candidates for the Sikyong, or political leader (previously called the prime minister), and the 16th parliament-in-exile, comprising 45 members, will be held on October 18, while the general elections will be held on March 20 next year.

An election campaign poster of Namgyal Dolker, 32, a woman law graduate who runs an NGO here, reads she has both the university education and experience of working in the community.

Tibetan Settlement Officer Sonam Dorjee, who calls himself the Tibetan mayor, boasts of his close contacts with the Indian community, while Kunchok Yarphel, 40, and Lhakpa Tsering talk about their experience of working in the Tibetan Youth Congress, the largest Tibetan NGO.

While the youngsters flood the social networks, the elders who do not use smart phones are quietly doing the rounds of the refugee camps speaking to people individually, making sure of their support.

“This time, I see more youngsters from Tibet contesting elections than those born in exile, and some nominees are explicitly campaigning for ‘rangzen’ or independence as their political stand,” political observer Tenzin Nyendak told IANS.

The minimum age for voting is 18 years, while the minimum age for contesting the elections is 25 years.

Besides the parliamentary elections, the Tibetan prime minister’s or political leader’s elections are simultaneously happening.

The duration of both the parliament and the prime minister’s term is five years.

Tibetan Voters in India, Nepal, Bhutan, the US, Europe, Australia, Japan, Russia, and other countries will take part in the elections.

The Dalai Lama, 80, has lived in India since 1959 when he fled his homeland after a failed uprising against Communist rule. The Tibetan administration is based here.

Some 140,000 Tibetans live in exile around the world, over 100,000 of them in India.