The preliminary election for Sikyong of the Central Tibetan Administration is beginning to liven up. About 80,000 Tibetans from 26 countries have now registered to participate in the 2021 elections. As the Dalai Lama is old in years, this election will have a great impact on the future of Tibetans in exile. A recent public opinion survey conducted by Radio Free Asia showed that candidates such as Dolma Gyari and others are in the lead, while the latest primaries ballot statistics show that Dolma Gyari and others are also in the leading position. Dolma Gyari recently stated that she will continue to adhere to the Middle Way policy and that “the political solution to Tibet’s status is still what concerns voters the most.” Her views represent the thoughts of Tibetans in exile, and her experience, together with her political experience as Kalon of the Home Department and as a member of the parliament, do add weight to her race for victory.
Yet as pre-elections begin, chaos is descending. It was discovered that an illiterate elderly person in Ladhak had clearly voted for Dolma Gyari, but his vote was changed to Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang. This “Chief Reconstruction Officer of the Government in Exile” who is close to Lobsang Sangay had clearly put a lot of thought into the course of events, so maybe someone secretly supported it?
On December 26, Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang held talks with young local Tibetans in Bylakuppe in southern India. Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang tantalizingly claimed that under his management the Social Development Fund under the Ministry of Economic Affairs could solve immigration, education, and other issues troubling young Tibetans. Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang claimed that he and Lobsan Sangay have the final say on how the Fund is spent as well as what projects it invests in. Participants in the meeting were Pema Dickyi, Lobsang Tashi, Tashi Choeohel, Namkha Ngodup, and Tashi Choegyal.
Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang is doing nothing more than making an election pact through the power he holds and his “special relationship” with Lobsang Sangay. This news coincides with pre-election media speculation and Tibetan discussions, so it is inevitable that we encounter all kinds of tricks.
There was more chaos besides. Dolma Gyari recently proclaimed that she ‘appointed two of her subordinates to canvass for her, but Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang privately cajoled these two people and asked them to canvass for Dolma on the surface, but in fact to vote for themselves’. Buying off subordinates, what a filthy approach Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang adopted.
If this chaos continues unabated, the 2021 Sikyong elections of Tibetans in exile will become a farce. In the last election for Sikyong, the candidate, Penpa Tsering, was defeated in a “competition” with his opponent, Lobsang Sangay. Soon afterwards he lost his post as the head of the North American office. Then he went to court with the Kashag. The rifts between exiled Tibetans are becoming still more scarred, and the people of the world have seen enough clowning around.
The Dalai Lama seeks to maintain the unity of Tibetans in exile, but did the Kashag officials listen to this? With the chaos in the primaries can there still be unity?
On December 30, Dolma Gyari delivered a campaign speech saying she supported the abolition of the “Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People” submitted to the Chinese government in 2008, hoping to trigger Chinese government reflection and promote the resumption of negotiations. She also said that she will serve the poorest Tibetans at the bottom of society. Pragmatic negotiation strategies, caring for and serving the poor are indeed what those political candidates should think about. It should be done. However, it backfired. Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang always put his own rights and interests first. He only works for himself and the small group for the sake of his own and their gain. He is only a pawn in Lobsang Sangay’s game. If this continues, the election chaos will become a sham. If there is to be any hope and future for the fooled Tibetans in exile, then such chaos and farce should stop!