By the Editorial Board of The Tibetan Political Review
The long wait for the results of the Kalon Tripa primary election is over –- Lobsang Sangay has won by a wide margin. He received 22,489 votes which is almost twice as many votes as cast for the second-place candidate Tenzin Namgyal Tethong, who received 12,319 votes. While it is still too early to project with certainty the person who will win in March, we know that with Sangay having won by such a wide margin, it has become clear that he is the frontrunner.
What is also very clear is that Sangay’s success is a testament to his enthusiastic campaigning. For this the editors of The Tibetan Political Review (TPR) commend him for putting in the time, effort, and funds to visit settlements in India, no matter how far-flung or remote they may be. While we on the TPR editorial board have not hesitated to hold all candidates, including Sangay, accountable and demand that they explain any questionable statements, we also do not hesitate to give credit where it is due. For a while we have noticed that among the candidates, it was Sangay who really threw himself into the campaign, energizing the Tibetan democracy in the process
We believe another factor in Sangay’s success is his relative youth compared with the other main candidates, which appeals to an electorate desiring -- as U.S. president Bill Clinton once promised -- a “bridge to the 21st century.” While the editors of TPR have taken issue with Sangy’s often vague and possibly conflicting policy positions, he can hardly be faulted any more than most other Tibetan candidates. The fact is, this election so far has been long on personality and short on policy. We call on Sangay, as the new frontrunner, to set an example and clearly set out in concrete detail for the voters exactly what his priorities and policies are.
The difference between this election and previous elections is the fervor with which Tibetans are following the campaigns and the ways in which the electorate has been energized. A lot of the credit for this goes to Sangay, who decided to take a proactive approach by launching a strong campaign and then personally going to many settlements. (We also must of course also commend Thuben Samdup and the team behind kalontripa.org.) The results from the primary election and the margin by which Sangay won demonstrates a departure from previous elections when only long-timers and established leaders could lay claim to the position of Kalon Tripa. This is truly exciting.
Sangay was able to start a grassroots campaign that resulted in the participation of a large number of new voters, especially the youth, and was able to capture their imagination with his narrative of an ordinary Tibetan who came from humble origins and by dint of hard work and intellect was able to attend Harvard Law School and receive his S.J.D.
While much has been said about his relative lack of experience and allegations that he lacks political judgment, what is lost in the discussion is that it might not have been possible for another without his background or qualifications to conceive of, let alone attempt, embarking on such an enterprise.
The editors of TPR congratulate Sangay for winning the primary election and commend him for working so hard on his campaign and for bringing his campaign to even the most far-flung settlements. This energy is good for Tibetan democracy. Sangay understood the importance of such campaigning and worked very hard to make these trips, and therefore this primary victory is a testament to his hard work and passion in his campaign to serve as the next Kalon Tripa.