In March, the parliament of the Tibetan Government in exile based at Dharamsala, Northern India, had lengthy discussions about the Dalai Lama’s decision to step down from his political role as Head of the government. Although the three parliamentary committees set up for this occasion recommended a ‘reduction’ in the Dalai Lama’s administrative responsibilities, the retirement plans were effectively rejected. Not only did they recommend the Dalai Lama should continue in his present role, but also it was stated that ‘the bond between the Tibetan people and the Dalai Lama, nearly 400 years old, was an immortal one.’
Perhaps this is the sign that the increasingly democratic nature of the Tibetan administration in exile finally asserts itself in the important question of how political figureheads continue to get elected and ratified in a parliamentary system. In the future, the two offices of political figurehead and religious figurehead might in theory be separate – paving the way forward for a break from Tibet’s historical theocratic institutions at the centre of political power.
For now, there are few others within the Tibetan field with the personal stature matching that of the Dalai Lama, who could provide effective leadership for the Tibetan movement to regain independence, however far-fetched that idea might be for present.
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