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Tibetans in exile vote for new leader

Harvard Law’s Lobsang Sangay is running for prime minister. Harvard Law’s Lobsang Sangay is running for prime minister.
Associated Press / March 21, 2011

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DHARMSALA, India — Tibetans across the world began voting yesterday for a new leader to take up the resistance against Chinese rule over their Himalayan homeland, as the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile debated how to handle the Dalai Lama’s resignation from politics.

Hundreds of monks joined Tibetan students, housewives, business people, and the elderly in lining up in the courtyard of the Tsuglakhang Temple in India’s northern city of Dharmsala, where the exiled government is based, to cast their votes in a festive atmosphere.

The front-runner is Lobsang Sangay of Massachusetts, a senior fellow at Harvard Law School who was born and brought up in exile.

Despite pleas from the Tibetan community in exile that the Dalai Lama stay on as head of government, the Buddhist spiritual leader has been adamant that the elected prime minister should take over.

The Parliament-in-exile was discussing constitutional changes yesterday to enact the change and free the 76-year-old Nobel Peace laureate to focus on spiritual matters.

The Dalai Lama — who is vilified by China as a political schemer — has never fully explained his decision to resign, which he announced on the March 10 anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule over Tibet that sent him into exile. But he has suggested negotiations with Beijing might be less complicated under another Tibetan figurehead.

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