Musings on Election Day
By Dhundup Gyalpo
Kindly post this list of nominees for the Assembly polls on your esteemed
Bursting at the rims of my inbox, spams (or email campaign, as one called it) such as these were the immediate cause, as I blurt out, “The youth factor”, when one reporter quizzed me on why such massive showing at this preliminary Assembly poll.
“From election spams to text messages, indications are that youth today are head over heels into politics,” I added, rather blithely.
In hindsight, it now appears that I might have exaggerated a little too far. However the festive crowd before me at the Gangkyi and McLeod polling booths, even if only a slice of the whole truth, was a visual delight and welcome contrast to my notings a month ago:
There is a Tibetan way to every general way. None more so typical than ;at times of the election of the Assembly.
Election is barely a month away. And yet, reclusive as ever, the epidemic of the pre-election fever has not dawned on the Tibetan Diaspora (or none that is visible to the roving eye).
Unlike any other democratic country, the atmospherics of the exile Tibetan polity is too eerily monotonous for a pre-election climate. We see no billboards flashing catchy slogans for a better future. Posters of hopeful candidates do not jostle for space on the street walls. Political squabbling and rhetoric, if at all any, is barely audible.
And you say this is election time! Given that unlike the usual one man one vote thing, an average lay Tibetan is entitled to vote 10 candidates and an average monk Tibetan 12 candidates, the Tibetan election campaign has all the excuses in the world to be more heated, hyperactive, or even hysterical at times. After all the hustings of the prospective chithues have to be invasive enough to linger in the collective memory as long as at least until they go to polls.
Although the voter turnout varied by place, the over all is expected to be more than the usual, but not as dramatic as the 15% rise in the voter registration. [The total registered voters (82,231), widely quoted by media, is tricky and needs some explaining as it is misunderstood for the actual size of the electorate. The aberration is the ecclesiastical communities (11,894 people), who are entitled to vote in two constituencies, religious (2 seats) and provincial (10), and are as such counted twice in the electoral rolls. The actual registered people (70,337) therefore will be those registered for the three provincial constituencies (65,281), plus those in North America (2,804) and Europe (2,252).]
Many agree that the timing of poll, as most Tibetans at present are fanned out across India for winter sweater business, bungled what was expected to be a record turnout in our 45-year electoral history, given the momentum build up by the growing attention of youth, along with mass awareness programmes waged by NGOs like the Tibetan Women’s Association. The fact which also deferred the primaries of Kalon Tripa to March next year.
Apart from a surfeit of candidates fielded by various fraternities, some just in the name of youth, much of the talking swirled around voter registration. Some argue registration is an unnecessary imitation of the host country and that all eligible voters, with valid Green Book, should be entitled to vote. A counterview is registration, at least for now, is imperative for the Election Commission to exercise the required level of control for the safe and smooth conduct of elections, starting from the printing and distribution of ballot papers. Those in the know also admit floating ideas like introduction of voting cards are still years ahead of time.
Although we lack exit polls to guestimate on the outcome of polls, we have our very own “exit calls”, by those involved in the counting of ballots. To get results, all you need to do is to make calls and do some maths. (The Election Commission went public saying that the officials cannot divulge polling results. However, some say regulations in this regard are not clear and precise.)
All in all, the preliminaries has set the stage for an exciting final. And grapevine has it that we should expect a change in the landscape of the Assembly’s profile. But just as the classic everything old is not gold, every new thing may not be desirable. What we need is a more balanced Assembly. But, for that, you need to vote. And vote right. Because, every vote does not count.
Every Vote Does Not Count
Ballot paper signed by a voter;
Inadequate identification of candidates (in the primaries);
Strikeovers or erasures (in the primaries);
Improper markings like a cross instead of a tick;
Voting for more than the allocated number of candidates.
For reasons such as these, in every election, a good chunk of votes is rendered invalid. For instance, during the first direct election of the Kalon Tripa in 2001, nearly five percent of the total 35,184 votes cast were nullified
“One common error is to confuse the number of women candidates”, says Menpa Trika Kherab, one of the two election commissioners of the Central Tibetan Administration. Voters in India, Nepal and Bhutan, from the constituencies of Do-tod, Do-med and Utsang, must cast at least two women out of the total ten candidates. (This rule however does not apply to other constituencies, or if a voter chose to elect only eight or less candidates.) People must also know that those in India, Nepal and Bhutan cannot elect those overseas and vice versa, adds Mr. Kherab.
New voters are therefore well advised to give a thorough read to the instructions or note (thug-snang) on the ballot paper to ensure that their vote counts, for a vote only counts if it is counted.
Making matters worse, many misinformation also abound on from voter registration to voting place, laments Election Commissioner Tenzin Dhargay. For instance, he says, you need not register again if you are already registered in the previous elections. He also clarifies that “even if you have not cast your ballot in the primaries, you can vote in the final round of the election.”
“Besides, it is not necessary that you vote where you registered”, adds Mr. Dhargay, “you can vote at any polling booth in any place, provided, you produce voter registration on your Green Book.”
(The article is reproduced from the Sept.-Oct. issue of Tibetan Bulletin, which is now online at (www.tibet.net/tibbul)