Dalai Lama announces plans to retire as political leader of Tibetan government in exile

In Dharamsala, India today, His Holiness the Dalai Lama announced plans to step down as political leader of the exiled Tibetan government, and cede power to an elected representative.

This will not come as news to those who have followed the exiled government's progress in recent years, which has trended towards popular elections for positions previously designated by appointment. Nor will it come as news to those close to the spiritual leader's activities: he has hinted in the past of plans for what should come when his time passes.

"As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power," the Dalai Lama said in a prepared speech. "Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect."

The Dalai Lama has long seen himself as "semi-retired" from political leadership with an elected prime minister already in place in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala. He remains Tibet's spiritual leader.

Image: The Dalai Lama gestures before speaking to students during a talk last month in Mumbai. (REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui)