Observing Tibetan democracy in action

[29 April 2016] In March 2016, Norman Baker, President of Tibet Society and former UK MP, took part in an international delegation to observe the Tibetan exile parliamentary election. Mr Baker was one of seven former and current parliamentarians, under the auspices of the International Network of Parliamentarians on Tibet (INPAT), who visited Dharamsala for the 20 March election.

Election delegationThe international observers lauded the proceedings of the Tibetan exile election stating it had been “conducted peacefully and overall in an orderly and calm manner”.

At a press conference following the election, the delegation (pictured right) said, “We are pleased to see how Tibetans all over the free world have once again strongly embraced democracy as the best way to achieve the aspirations of a better future for the Tibetan people, which unfortunately continues to be denied to 6 million Tibetans in Tibet.”(Click here to read the full statement.)

The delegation will be compiling a report on the election process including recommendations in areas of campaign finance regulation, participation of women, the regional voting system and representation of religious sects in the parliament.

Norman Baker’s “Letter from Dharamsala”

Norman BakerI knew that we were going to have a good trip when the Spice Air plane touched down at the new Dharamsala airport. We alighted from the plane into a lovely warm, breezy day, with the sun basking the Himalayas.

I was travelling with a group of international parliamentarians to monitor the Tibetan elections for the Sikyong and the Tibetan parliament–in-exile.

The first thing to say is that the voting process was competently run and certainly free of corruption. The process was a credit to the Tibetans. 

What was particularly heartening and indeed moving was to see the snaking queues of Tibetans, good-humoured and eager to cast their votes, patiently waiting for over an hour in some cases to do so. There was a certain innocent beguiling joy about them all. 

The polling stations themselves were rather more exotic than those you might find in a town hall in Halifax or a back street in Bermondsey. Among those we visited was a temple in Dharamsala itself and a fabulous monastery at Bir. As someone who has fought countless elections over the years, I have never before seen the slightly surreal sight of monks, all clad in identical robes, queueing patiently in the sun to cast their votes at an open air polling station.

The international team included representatives from Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Australia, as well as the UK. Following the visit we are compiling a report that will summarise our observations and provide recommendations for the future.

For my part, these include issues to do with the need for postal voting, and ways in which the polling stations might be better organised, but these should not detract from the fact that the election was fair and broadly well run. What a pity such an opportunity is not available to the Tibetans in Tibet, or indeed to the billions in China itself.

Norman Baker 
President, Tibet Society 
5 April 2016

The INPAT delegation consisted of:
♦ Mr Norman Baker, Former MP (UK) and President of Tibet Society
♦ Mr Consiglio Di Nino, Former Senator (Canada) and Chair of Canada Tibet Committee
♦ Ms Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy, Assistant of Laszlo Tokes MEP (Hungary) 
♦ Mr Andre Gattolin, Senator (France)
♦ Mr Thomas Mann, MEP (Germany)
♦ Mr Matteo Mecacci, Former MP (Italy) and President of International Campaign for Tibet
♦ Ms Lisa Singh, Senator (Australia)
♦ Mr Bhuchung K Tsering, Vice President of International Campaign for Tibet

Further reading: Phayul I ICT
Lobsang Sangay elected to second term as Tibetan PM in exile (Tibet Society)

Tibet Society, the world’s first Tibet support group, was founded in 1959. Funded by its members, it has been working for over 50 years to seek justice for Tibet through parliamentary lobbying, campaigns and actions. Help keep Tibet alive by joining Tibet Society today. Annual membership £24; Family £36; Life £500.


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