By the Editorial Board of The Tibetan Political Review
With the fast-approaching primary election on October 3, when Tibetans will choose the official candidates for Kalon Tripa and Chitue, the Editorial Board of The Tibetan Political Review has attempted to summarize the job descriptions for these two positions. It is our hope that clarity on these offices' responsibilities will help voters better evaluate the candidates.
These job descriptions are derived from the Charter of the Tibetans in Exile, which is the constitution of the Tibetan government in exile. These are simply our interpretations, and any discrepancy with the actual text of the Charter should, of course, be resolved in favor of the Charter.
1. Formal Power
The formal role of the Kalon Tripa is primarily administrative. He/she heads the Kashag, the highest executive body of the Tibetan government in exile. Therefore, to understand the formal power of the Kalon Tripa requires understanding the power of the Kashag (Cabinet).
The executive power of the Tibetan government is ultimately vested in His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the head of state. According to the Charter, the Kashag is “primarily responsible for exercising the executive powers of the Tibetan Administration,” under the “leadership of His Holiness.” Today, with His Holiness’ stated desire to “retire” from politics, the Kashag has been moving towards a model of constitutional monarchy (e.g. Britain and Thailand), where the government exercises power in the name of the Crown.
The Kashag Members , Lhasa, 1937
(Tethong Shape, Bhondong Shape, Kalon Lama Champa Tendar, and Langchunga Shape)
Source: Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford
The Charter specifies the following executive powers that the Kashag may exercise in the name of His Holiness:
1. approve and promulgate bills and regulations passed by the Parliament
2. promulgate acts and ordinances with the force of law (these are not laws, but rather executive orders)
3. confer honors and appointments (e.g. appoint the heads of the Offices of Tibet)
4. Summon and adjourn Parliament
5. Send messages to or address Parliament
6. Dissolve or suspend Parliament
7. Dissolve the Kashag or remove a Kalon
8. Authorize referendums
9. Prepare an annual budget for Parliament's approval
10. Assent to Parliament’s introduction of a bill involving an expenditure, tax, or indebtedness by the Tibetan government
11. Summon a Special General Meeting of the Tibetan People (with the assent of His Holiness, the Speaker of Parliament, and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament)
2. Informal Power
3. Our View of the Job Requirements
II. Chitue (Mmber of Parliament)
The role of a Chitue is primarily as a law-maker. A Chitue is a member of the Parliament (the Tibetan Assembly, or Chitue Lhantsok). Each Chitue has the right to introduce any bill or legislation, or propose any amendment, as prescribed by the Parliament’s rules.
According to the Charter, all legislative power and authority rests with the Parliament, subject to the formal requirement to seek His Holiness’ assent as head of state. This includes the power to:
1. Pass legislation (subject to the other restrictions below)
2. Amend the Charter, with a two-thirds vote
3. Discuss, assent to, reduce, or reject the Kashag’s annual budgetary proposal (with a few subjects excepted)
4. Pass legislation dealing with a tax or indebtedness by the Tibetan government, subject to the Kashag’s assent
5. Set the salary of the Kalon Tripa and Kalons, as well as of the Chitues themselves
6. Remove a Kalon, with a two-thirds vote
7. Remove the Chief Justice Commissioner, with a two-thirds vote
8. Relieve His Holiness of His executive functions, with a three-fourth vote and in consultation with the Supreme Justice Commission (this is sometimes mis-interpreted as "impeachment," which it is not; His Holiness would remain Dalai Lama, with all religious power intact, but His executive function in the government would be exercised by a Council of Regency)
2. Our View of the Job Requirements
The Chitue serves as a member of the Tibetan government’s highest law-making body. The Parliament has the power to pass laws that define the Tibetan government’s policies. A Chitue must have an understanding of the legislative process, including parliamentary rules and the drafting of laws. For this role, a legal background would be a strong asset.
Additionally, the Chitue should have a familiarity with the budget process, because one of the key responsibilities of Parliament is to approve the budget of the Tibetan government. A Chitue must also have the wisdom necessary to hold the power to vote to remove the Justice Commissioner or a Kalon, and even to relieve His Holiness' executive function.
Chitue members would ideally bring to this body a willingness to explore new ideas and new ways of approaching problems. The Parliament is a place for debate, and it benefits from having members who are willing to think “outside the box” in innovative ways. Such unorthodox ideas might involve risk if implemented directly, but they can be debated, revised, improved, or rejected by other parliamentarians. In this way, the lawmaking process can be revitalized by the injection of new and innovative ideas, while being tempered by the need to convince a parliamentary majority.
Lastly, but not least, the Chitue should have a good understanding of, and communication relationship with, his/her constituents. As a candidate, the Chitue must make clear what laws and policies he/she would advocate. Once in office, the Chitue should commit to having an "open door policy" where constituents can bring their ideas, problems, and complaints, and the Chitue will do his/her best to resolve them or bring them to the attention of Parliament.