Thursday, 16 February 2017

Standing Orders

THE STATES are asked to decide whether they are of opinion:

(a) that the requirement that Senators and Deputies must be British citizens should be removed;

(b) that candidates for election as Senators or Deputies must have been ordinarily resident in Jersey for at least 5 years in total and for a period of 6 months up to and including the day of the election; and

(c) to request the Privileges and Procedures Committee to bring forward the necessary legislative changes so that the new arrangements take effect in time for the elections due in 2018.

The groundwork for this proposition came in the CPA Benchmarking Survey that was undertaken by a Sub-Committee of the Privileges and Procedures Committee earlier this year, which consisted of Deputy S.M. Bree of St. Clement, Deputy J.M. Maçon of St. Saviour, former Senator Z.A. Cameron, and Montfort Tadier, which suggested that:

“Candidates currently have to be British citizens. Members considered that 5 years’ residency should be sufficient and that the requirement for British Citizenship precluded valuable members of the Portuguese and Polish communities, as well as other nationalities, from entering political life. If Jersey had its own unique nationality, then it would seem sensible to maintain this requirement.”

Jersey politicians have voted against allowing non-British citizens from standing for election in the island. Deputy Montfort Tadier called for a change to the current rules, which stop islanders without a British passport from being part of the States Assembly. His proposition did not get the backing from the majority of politicians though, with only eight members agreeing to the idea.

31 voted against it, while two others abstained from voting.

Interestingly, given his “preamble” about the subcommittee, neither Simon Bree nor Jeremy Macon voted for the proposition.

While he cites other areas where rights have been extended – jury service, the police, voting rights, the elephant in the room was always this:

““In most other jurisdictions there is a nationality requirement for candidates for national parliaments, for example in the United Kingdom and in France.”

In fact, he cannot cite a single case of a country where candidates for election to a parliament or similar body do not have to be citizens of that country – you have to be an Australian citizen to stand in Australia, a German citizen to stand in Germany etc.

There is not a country in the world so far as I know that subscribes to the idea that a foreign national can stand for election to their parliament or national assembly. It is not enough just to be resident, but to have a commitment which comes through naturalisation.

The UK has some peculiarities of its own:

People wishing to stand as an MP must be over 18 years of age, be a British citizen or citizen of a Commonwealth country or the Republic of Ireland"

Lots of legacy stuff - Commonwealth dates from Empire, Republic of Ireland > is a legacy of Ireland being part of Great Britain before splitting off, and also to keep Northern Ireland in the loop.

County council elections in the UK meanwhile have an even wider brief where you must:

"be a British citizen, an eligible Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of any member state of the European Union" (which of course includes Eire)

There is, however, a caveat on Commonwealth citizens, as the full criteria reads:

“ … a citizen of a commonwealth country who does not require leave to enter or remain in the UK, or has indefinite leave to remain in the UK.”

However, non-British passport holders are likely to have restrictions applied to their stay even if their home country is a member of the commonwealth, and this would in most cases preclude them from being eligible to stand.

For example, New Zealanders most definitely need to apply for a visa for the UK if they intend to stay for more than 3 months or intend to seek work. The same is true vice versa - you need a visa for entry into New Zealand on much the same basis. Hence they would not be able to stand without taking British citizenship.

And even though Adolph Hitler came from Austria, he was awarded German citizenship, a requirement before he could stand for election. It was Feb. 25, 1932 and Hitler had just been naturalized after being appointed as a civil servant in the then-free state of Braunschweig -- a crucial step for the continuation of his political career. This was a precondition for holding political office in the Weimar Republic.

Even dictators need to abide by rules of citizenship before they can run for election!

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