By the Editorial Board of The Tibetan Political Review
With the Kalon Tripa elections just weeks ahead, voters now have three candidates to choose from: Lobsang Sangay, Tenzin Namgyal Tethong, and Tashi Wangdi. Much has already been written and said about Sangay and Tethong by their supporters and by the exile Tibetan media. However, Wangdi has also silently but steadily established a firm foothold, and it goes without saying that given his impressive credentials and long service in the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, he is a formidable candidate for the Kalon Tripa position.
While we all know how voters cast their ballot during the primary elections for Kalon Tripa, it is likely that more people would have voted for Wangdi had he formally and unequivocally announced his candidacy at that time. During the lead-up to the primary elections, Wangdi stated that he was not running for Kalon Tripa but that if people voted for him despite that, he would respect their wishes and be willing to serve as Kalon Tripa. While his hesitancy and seeming tentativeness may in part be attributed to his characteristic humility, Wangdi has now formally stepped into the arena, for which we commend him – we say “better late than never”.
Some voters feel that Wangdi is a long-shot as far as winning the elections. However, to say that Wangdi is a viable candidate would be an understatement – the depth and breadth of his experience working in the Tibetan Government-in-Exile are second to none, and should count substantially as voters weigh the merits of each Kalon Tripa candidate.
His long and distinguished service in the Tibetan Government-in-Exile spans over forty years and goes back as far as 1966, and includes previous terms as Kalon in virtually every major department, including the Department of Religion and Culture, Department of Home, Department of Education, Department of Information and International Relations, Department of Security, and Department of Health. He has also served as the Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, New York, and Brussels.
Our review of his past interviews as well as his performance in the most recent Kalon Tripa debates leave us no doubt as to his vast experience and institutional knowledge, as well as his sincerity to continue serving in the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, this time at the helm as Kalon Tripa. His public service record is above reproach.
We must then turn to the all-important question of whether Wangdi has the leadership qualities, the vision, and the innovation required to successfully serve as Kalon Tripa. This is particularly critical in a possibly transitional period when the next Kalon Tripa will be required to marshal all his personal strengths and all resources at his disposal to keep the proverbial “ship of state” on an even keel, and not lose his handle on the helm.
If one examines Wangdi’s positions in TGiE, one finds that most of his service has been as a bureaucrat implementing policy. For example, Wangdi spent a major part of his service years in New Delhi away from Dharamsala, where the major policies were discussed and decided. One also finds that Wangdi is known for his neutrality or bab.lhing ten.sum which in some contexts is an admirable trait. However, the position of Kalon Tripa will entail responsibilities in which crucial decisions will require taking stands. This will be particularly important if the next administration is to move beyond the status quo.
Thus, for Wangdi to win the election, he will need to convince the voters that he is ready to move from bureaucrat to leader. He will need to address whether he has the leadership qualities to inspire a nation forward, the planning acumen to craft policy ideas and balance priorities, and the powers of persuasion to keep the Tibetan exile community united and focused on our common goals. Wangdi also needs to be more clear about his stands on crucial issues that Tibet as a nation faces now. Similarly, Wangdi will need to show that he has the right temperament and the force of personality to be effective as the leader of our exile government on the international stage.
We believe that there is still time for Wangdi to get his message out to the voters on these issues. His entry into the race for Kalon Tripa is a positive development for our nascent democracy because in the political marketplace, citizens are generally better off having more options to choose from. Voters cannot but recognize Wangdi’s distinguished service in TGiE and his effectiveness as a bureaucrat extraordinaire for our exile government. What remains for voters to assess is whether he possesses the leadership qualities that will be paramount to being an effective Kalon Tripa. To this end, we commend Wangdi for not resting on his laurels and hoping that his past accomplishments will speak for themselves, but rather joining the other two candidates in public debates and interviews to inform more voters about his candidacy.