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A portrait of the Dalair Lama watches over Canadian Tibetans as they vote for a new leader in exile, in Toronto, March 20, 2011. (J.P. Moczulski for The Globe and Mail) (J.P. MOCZULSKI/J.P. MOCZULSKI)
A portrait of the Dalair Lama watches over Canadian Tibetans as they vote for a new leader in exile, in Toronto, March 20, 2011. (J.P. Moczulski for The Globe and Mail) (J.P. MOCZULSKI/J.P. MOCZULSKI)

Tibetan diaspora flocks to polls Add to ...

Voters around the world turned out in large numbers Sunday to elect Tibet's government in exile, requiring the polling station in Toronto to stay open an extra hour to accommodate demand.

Although polls were scheduled to shut at 5 p.m., a line of people 50-deep was still waiting to cast ballots at closing time, according to Lhakpa Tsering of the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre. More than 1,000 people voted in Toronto, home of Canada's largest Tibetan community, while polls were also open in Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary.

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The elections are the most significant in memory for Tibetans abroad as the Dalai Lama, both a spiritual and political leader to Tibetans, announced during the campaign that he would be stepping back from his political role as head of government, ceding his place to the prime minister. The Dalai Lama said at the time that rule by spiritual leaders was out of date and that political leaders should be elected

Voters from the 100,000-strong Tibetan diaspora flocked to polling stations in 13 countries to choose one of three candidates for prime minister and to vote for their local representatives to the parliament in exile, headquartered in Dharamsala in northern India. Results will be announced by the end of April.

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