Dharamshala (HP), Dec 3 (PTI) The first phase of the general election for the Tibetan parliament-in-exile was held on Sunday to elect the next Sikyong (president), officials said.
There are around 1.3 lakh Tibetans living in exile in India and across the globe. After Sunday's first round of elections, the results will be declared on February 8.
The second and final round is scheduled to be held on April 11. The Tibetan government-in-exile will elect its head on May 14.
As many as 79,697 Tibetan voters have registered for the polls to elect members for the 17th parliament-in-exile. Out of the total voters, 55,683 are residing in India while the remaining 24,014 are registered from other parts of the globe.
The current Tibetan government-in-exile is headed by Lobsang Sangay, who completes his second term as its Sikyong (President). The headquarters of the Central Tibetan Administration is located in Dharamshala.
A record number of candidates are vying for the top political post with eight people in the fray.
The contenders include the representative of the Dalai Lama in Delhi and former CTA home minister Kasur Dongchung Ngodup, former representative of Dalai Lama to North America Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang, former speaker of the parliament-in-exile Penpa Tsering and incumbent deputy speaker Acharya Yeshi Phuntosok.
Besides, over 150 candidates are contesting for the election to the parliament.
There were 12 polling stations for the voters in and around Dharamshala.
The second and final phase of the election is scheduled to be held on April 11.
Speaking to media, current Sikyong Sangay said that despite the pandemic, Tibetans living in nearly 40 countries took part in the elections.
'Young and old. All are coming out and participating in the elections. So, this is a momentous and historical event because even though we are in exile, we are exercising a fundamental right whereby we are walking shoulder to shoulder with other democratic countries around the world...', he said.
Sangay, a Harvard scholar, completes his second term as President of the CTA this year.
“The Tibetan democracy-in-exile reflects the true aspirations of our brothers and sisters inside Tibet,” said the incumbent Sikyong.
Important polling stations abroad in places like California, New York, Toronto, and London went through the voting process on Saturday itself, a day ahead of schedule.
Due to the prevailing COVID-19 situation, polling stations are being sanitised regularly with wearing face masks made mandatory. All votes were cast through the paper ballot system. PTI CORR HDA