Dalai Lama set to resign. What role will he play then?

The Dalai Lama announced Thursday that he is relinquishing his political leadership of the Tibetan exile movement. But how much will the move actually change his role?

Here’s an explanation of his past roles and the structure of the Tibetan government in exile.

What is the Dalai Lama giving up?

Ashwini Bhatia/AP
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama speaks during the commemoration of the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against the Chinese rule, in Dharmsala, India, Thursday, March 10.

The Dalai Lama is giving up his role as political head of the Tibetan government in exile, a position he has held since he was 15 years old.

He was asked to take the full responsibilities of leadership when he was 15, following the 1949 Chinese invasion of Tibet, although he had technically been the leader since he was named the 14th Dalai Lama as a child.

The responsibilities have lessened with the implementation of democratic reforms, such as the democratic election of an assembly and, beginning in 2001, the direct election of a prime minister. The prime minister is the highest executive authority in the Tibetan government in exile, according the Tibetan government website.

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