Tens of thousands of Tibetan exiles are voting around the globe to elect a new prime minister and parliament. It is the second such election since the Dalai Lama stepped down to focus on his role as a spiritual leader.
Some 80,000 registered Tibetans are in exile - 11,000 of them in Dharmsala in India - were set to vote in Sunday's daylong election, to decide who will lead the parliament of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) in Dharamsala, which isn't recognized by any country. The result is expected next month.
Running for office is current Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay and his opponent, parliamentary speaker Penpa Tsering. Both continue to support "a middle way" proposed by the Dalai Lama, which calls for seeking regional autonomy under Chinese rule.
Calls for full independence
The Dalai Lama has been living in exile in Dharmsala since he fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. He stepped down as head of the Tibetan government in 2011. Concerns over the spiritual leader's health grew last year after he was admitted to a US hospital.
Some groups have been advocating full independence for Tibet, as little progress has been made in the dialogue with Beijing, which doesn't recognize the Tibetan government in exile. Representatives of the pro-independence groups failed to win enough support in the first round of elections to be in the running for the prime minister's post.
Self-immolation in protest
Exiled Tibetan officials say at least 114 monks and laypeople have self-immolated to protest Chinese rule over their homeland over the past five years, with most of them dying. According to Radio Free Asia, 144 people have died by setting fire to themselves since 2009.
Beijing blames the Dalai Lama and others for inciting the immolations and says it has made vast investments to develop Tibet's economy and improve quality of life.
ksb/jlw (AP, AFP, Reuters)