Recent events at Dharamsala indicates that not all is well in the governance of Tibetan affairs by their Government in Exile. Several years back His Holiness took an unprecedented decision to create a Prime Minister Post to head the Tibetan Cabinet ( introducing democratic process ). An election was held and in all probability the candidate who had the endorsement of the His Holiness got elected. That political leader was Lobsang Sangay. In the reelection of March this year, he won a second term.
The Prime Minister post is Sikyong. And the definition of this post versus that of HH Dalai Lama was that the Prime Minister was the Political Leader of Tibetans in Exile. His Holiness created this post to counter possible Chinese installation of his incarnation after his own death. Actually His Holiness is both the inborn Political and Spiritual Leader of Tibet. This new Sikyong system was introduced to strengthen Tibetan Government in Exile in the event China managed to install their own choice of Dalai Lama. It also indicates that there is a strong possibility of the next Dalai Lama being born in Chinese territory including Tibet. After all the Dalai Lama himself welconed the Chinese recognised Gyelwa Karmapa. And it is also said that incarnate Pachen Lama is in China.
The other beneficial side of such a system is for gaining more international legitimacy. Democratic powerful Nations do not support autocratic Rulers. Such autocratic Rulers are tolerated for political conveniences by Western Powers. So a democratically elected leadership gains durable legitimacy in the eyes of the West though the person of His Holiness is well respected. The Dalai Lama is a very popular and respected world leader.
This new system would have functioned quite well if the elected Prime Minister had pretended to be the Political Leader but actually left political decisions to His Holiness and his private circle of councillors. But history is full of powerful people surrounded by manipulative behind the scene close aides whose survival inspiration and desperation is phenomenal. A Prime Minister would also have his own circle of loyals who feed on his success and power. And, therefore, desperate to increase the power turf of the Office of the Prime Minister.
Moreover, a person who gets elected as Sikyong even if initially with the help of endorsement from His Holiness has to be a person who has personal ambitions, influence and ideas. He may submit to the direct wishes of His Holiness but may detest orders that he suspects are influenced by manipulators. An open and direct access for the Sikyong to His Holiness would have prevented miscommunication. But such open political corridor would have curtailed powers of those in between players.
Now there is a clash of who is more powerful between these two power houses. And unfortunately, it will be the Tibetans in Exile who will be the ultimate victims of on going political power struggle. The Dalai Lama has declared that he will live past 113 years of age. Whether he lives for another 30 years or not, the essence of the political message is that His Holiness will out live the political influence/life of Lobsang Sangay. The unholy threat from the Holy man is real and destructively open.
Presently the Gelug International Foundation is in the process of mediating for a respectable solution between the Traditional and Democratic Camps under the guise of ," Apologising to His Holiness ". If this move fails, the 2nd term Sikyong may choose to resign and that will be end the democracy facade for Tibetans in Exile. It will also weaken the legitimacy of His Holiness as the overall unified representative leader of Tibetans in Exile. If a temporary Truce is worked out this term, the next Election would be a kind of undeclared war. And big powers whether America, China or India would simply encourage such internal struggle because then both Parties would be begging for their support and thus far easier to control.
I feel sorry for those that already face incredible hardships of being refugees. Certainly the two houses of Tibetan authority in Exile could have acted less personalised and more broad based in their political goals. Looks like Lord Buddha and Guru Rimpoche will have to be invoked by the refugees themselves for earthly intervention.