Dual Citizenship and Elective Office (Iraq Edition)

by Peter Spiro

Iraqis are wondering if their legislators should be permitted to hold dual citizenship (see here).  Current law permits multiple nationality but not among those holding “senior positions” in the government.  Some want to clarify the bar to include parliamentarians.  There’s apparently some concern that dual citizenship gives corrupt officials an escape hatch, as in, they have someplace to flee when the prosecutors come knocking.

But that would seem more an issue for extradition regimes than about dual citizenship.  The issue is being debated elsewhere, mostly in countries with longstanding prohibitions on office-holding by dual nationals, often pursuant to express constitutional provisions (among them Australia, Jamaica, Bangladesh, Malawi, Nigeria, and Latvia, as well as in Hong Kong). In contrast to Iraq, several of these regimes are coming under attack from the opposite direction, with mounting pressure to eliminate ineligibility (see examples here, here, and here). The problem is that repealing the restrictions will typically look like a loser issue from the sitting legislator’s perspective.  As one Jamaican editorial put it, “Any overhaul, on the face of it, will require not only legislative action, but approval by the people in a referendum. But a governing party, especially one with a slim majority, is likely to consider a plebiscite politically risky.”

On the merits, ineligibility is starting to look pretty silly.  Let voters decide if they trust a dual citizen with legislative authorities.  Why deprive them of a choice?


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