Tibetans all around the world voted to elect the prime minister of their government-in-exile. The result of the elections held in March was announced on Wednesday in Dharamsala, India, where the Tibetan government-in-exile is based.
With 55% of the votes, Harvard University academic Lobsang Sangay (photo, from tibet.net), 42, defeated the two other candidates, Tenzin Tethong, a former representative of the Dalai Lama in the US who got 37.4% of the vote and Tashi Wangdi, a government-in-exile bureaucrat who won 6.4%.
He will assume the political role of the Dalai Lama, who announced last month that he wanted to quit his political responsibilities, but keep his role as Tibetan spiritual leader.
“The Election Commission of the Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has declared Dr Lobsang Sangay as the third kalon tripa,” Election Commissioner Jampal Thosang announced, using the Tibetan term for prime minister.
He also said that more than 49,000 ballots were cast, but that almost 83,400 Tibetans exiles were eligible to vote.
The Dalai Lama was “very happy” that people had taken “a very active part in the election process”, an official told Reuters news agency.
Lobsang Sangay’s father fled Tibet in 1959, the same year as the Dalai Lama, and the Indian-born legal expert has never lived in Tibet.
He said he will now move to Dharamsala in order to serve as prime minister and added that he supports the Dalai Lama’s stance on ties with China.
On Wednesday he said in a victory statement that he took comfort in the fact that the handover was taking place while the Dalai Lama “is healthy and available to watch over us”.
“I urge every Tibetan and friend of Tibet to join me in our common cause to alleviate the suffering of Tibetans in occupied Tibet and to return His Holiness to his rightful place,” he said.
According to analysts, the Dalai Lama handed over his political responsibilities to make sure that, should the Chinese government try to select the next Dalai Lama, the Tibetans will still have an elected leader outside China and beyond the country’s control.