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20march20110080Dharamshala: - Thousands of Tibetans across the world today voted to elect the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, an exercise in democracy. The outdoor courtyard of the Main Temple in Dharamshala was bustling on Sunday as what may have been thousands of Tibetans queued to cast their votes for the election of the next Tibetan Prime Minister-in-Exile, the Kalon Tripa.

Monks, nuns and lay-persons from the young to the elderly flocked to the Temple to fill out the ballot paper selecting their choice out of the three final candidates: Lobsang Sangay, Tenzin Tethong and Tashi Wangdi. As local and foreign members of the press encircled ballot boxes, smiling Tibetans proudly slotted in their votes while small monks too young to participate looked on from the upper floor of the Temple.

Elections will also be held in other cities with large Tibetan populations such as Brussels, Belgium and Kathmandu, Nepal, though recent incidents of Nepalese police inteference in has sparked fears for the democratic process and safety of those who go to the polls. The situation in Nepal has been worsening and the Nepalese government has been buckling under pressure from China to crackdown on Tibetan activities.

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This year's election has received unprecedented attention from the media and is expected to draw a record turn-out. It takes place only weeks after His Holiness the Dalai Lama announced his intention to devolve his political authority, effectively ending his role in the political activity of Tibet and the Tibetan people though still vowing to contribute to the cause and remain as the Tibetans' Spiritual leader.

"As many as 83,399 exiled Tibetans settled in India, Nepal, Bhutan, the United States, European countries, Australia, Japan, Russia and other countries were eligible to exercise their franchise to elect the new Prime minister and new 43 members of Tibetan Parliament-in-exile," Jamphel Choesang, chief election commissioner, said.

At the main Tibetan temple polling station, the four ballot boxes were completely full byh 1.00 pm and later the organizers had to arrange for another 2 boxes for the surprisingly huge voter turnout.

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