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Photograph: HINA/ Damir SENČAR /ds

Tibetan exiles around the world voted Sunday to elect a new prime minister and a government-in-exile to lead their struggle for greater autonomy for Tibet within China.

The government-in-exile based in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala is not recognized by any nation but wields influence among the more than 85,000 Tibetans living across the world, mainly in India, Nepal and Bhutan. 

There was brisk voting and long queues at the nine polling centres in Dharamsala of men and women in traditional dress clutching their green books, a tax and identity card that allows them to vote.

Voting was being held in other towns in India with sizeable Tibetan populations, senior election official Tenzin Norbu said by phone.

An international delegation of observers, mainly politicians from Australia and Europe, said they were satisfied with the process and arrangements. Indian police provided security at the voting booths.

Tibetans in the United States, Europe, Russia, South Africa, Japan and Australia were also voting for a premier and 45 members of parliament, Norbu said.

Harvard-educated Lobsang Sangay, 47, the current leader of the Tibetan government, is running against Penpa Tsering, speaker of the parliament-in-exile since 2006.  

The results of the elections are scheduled to be declared on April 27.

The Dalai Lama, who retired as the political leader of the Tibetan exiles in 2011, does not have a vote, Norbu said.

Sangay assumed political responsibilities after winning the first election that year and is favoured to win this election.

"Resuming talks with China was and will remain my top priority," Sangay told reporters in Dharamsala after casting his vote, IANS news agency reported.

Since he became prime minister, Sangay has been campaigning for more autonomy for Tibet within the Chinese constitution.

The Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans have lived in exile since he fled to India in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

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