David Morgan – On Dual Citizenship

Profile David Morgan LE Mag August 2018

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One Person, Two Votes – a mockery of democracy?

David Morgan has been a professional editor and journalist for over thirty years beginning his career on the subs desk of the Morning Star newspaper. He is editor of numerous historical publications under the Socialist History Society imprint. David’s interests and research include Turkey and the Kurds, literary figures like George Orwell, Edward Upward and William Morris, British anarchism, the 17th century English revolutionary era and the history of psychoanalysis. He has contributed towards many different publications and writes review articles, commentaries, opinion pieces, polemics and poetry.

Mark Ulyseas – I personally believe that dual citizenship with its ‘right to vote’ is a travesty because it gives a dual citizen undue advantage over those that possess only one citizenship. I wrote to David Morgan (professional editor, journalist), Dr Greta Sykes (Poet, Writer, Artist) and Vivek Mehra(Author, Pathfinder, Managing Director and CEO of SAGE India)  requesting them to answer the following question and to provide their valuable input on other matters related to this contentious issue:

Does dual citizenship seriously impact voting in respective countries? Are citizens of both countries that do not possess dual citizenship at a disadvantage because of the external voting?

(Note: India has a good system: though it doesn’t permit dual citizenship it grants special status – ‘Overseas Citizenship of India’ (OCI). Each OCI gets a special id. It entitles an OCI to live in India indefinitely without a visa, do business, marry, buy property (except agricultural property) etc. But it disallows voting rights/holding public office/or government employment. India has agreements with a number of countries on double taxation.)

Why can’t other governments follow the Indian model to avoid facing the apparent growing concern of people with one citizenship towards those who possess more than one citizenship – The rising tide of distrust, the question of loyalty (especially during elections) and the oft repeated allegation – evasion of taxes by dual citizens. Coupled with these problems is another volatile situation – the unchecked influx of illegal immigrants, and illegals already in a country working below the minimum wage and being exploited by unscrupulous people.

The following is David Morgan‘s insight into this contentious issue.

Two votes on brainIn the UK, the issue of dual nationality has come to the fore as a result of Britain’s planned withdrawal from the European Union following the 2016 referendum. Many Britons who have grown up in the EU and find free movement to be convenient for work and leisure naturally don’t want to lose these advantages. Many in response are hastily seeking to apply for citizenship of an EU country where they may have some family connection however distant. And figures show that there has been a clear increase in people making applications for nationality of another EU country. According to figures obtained from 17 of the 27 EU member states, the number of British nationals who were granted citizenship of another EU country increased by 158% between 2016 and last year, that is in the wake of the Brexit vote. I am personally aware of European nationals who have lived happily within the UK for 30 or 40 years frantically applying for their foreign passports which they had let lapse. Providing all the documentary evidence that is required can be a stressful experience.

But all countries have different rules for the granting of citizenship and the process of applying can be a very complex one. This situation also adds to the inequalities that already exist between citizens of these nations. Italian citizenship for example is passed on from parent to child irrespective of the number of generations passed, even on foreign soil, so any Briton with Italian ancestry is at a distinct advantage in seeking to retain EU citizenship. All they need to do is to trace their family tree and find proof of their Italian ancestor.

There are some tangible advantages in having dual nationality. These are not only to do with the ability of travelling freely without the need to apply for a visa, although this is important. Some years ago, I travelled to Istanbul with a colleague from London and on arrival in Turkey we separated to join different queues: as a British passport holder only, I had to queue longer as I waited to pay my required £10 to purchase a visa to allow my entry into the country, while my colleague simply produced his French passport enabling him to walk right through. France has a different agreement with Turkey to what it has with the UK and my France-born colleague naturally took full advantage of the convenience despite the fact that he was a permanent UK resident, who also had a British passport and had not lived in France for several decades. This is quite a trivial matter when set against the political advantages that can be obtained by states through exploiting dual nationality. When millions of citizens of any one country with dual nationality also have voting rights they possess the potential to exercise a distorting influence on domestic politics.

Animosities between communities can ensue if unfair influence is perceived and political conflicts can be engendered if citizens are thought to be voting in order to sway domestic politics for the advantage of their home country. This can lead to accusations of divided loyalties and foster suspicions of foreign nationals even though there may be no real basis for such suspicions. This will become especially acute if tensions arise between the resident country and the home country. It is not too difficult to imagine a scenario where a dispute emerges between two countries where one has a large migrant population from the rival country and that community comes under pressure from the host country or from its home country to take sides, by exercising their votes in support of electoral candidates sympathetic to the home country.

A major controversy in British politics at present is the allegations of anti-Semitism within the opposition Labour Party and, while a degree of anti-Semitism definitely exists, it is also clear that the issue is being deliberately exaggerated to undermine the party leadership of the left-wing Jeremy Corbyn. Quite simply, Anti-Semitism has been “weaponised” for political advantage which is a very dangerous course of action because it needlessly creates social tensions that actually inflame and spread more anti-Semitism. At the same time as this two-year inter-party controversy has been raging, an increase in attacks on Jewish cemeteries has been reported, although direct connection between the two is not established.

The question of dual nationality forms an integral part of this controversy. It is alleged that British Jews owe loyalty to two nations, the UK and Israel, not only because they have two passports, but also because their political allegiances are determined by their wish to defend Israeli interests.  A disputed clause proposed to form part of a new code adopted to root out anti-Semitism within the Labour Party would deem it anti-Semitic for anyone to accuse Jewish members of being more loyal to the State of Israel than their home country.

In substance, this charge is another variation of the notorious “cricket test” devised in 1990 by former Tory minister Norman Tebbit who argued that a true test of being British was which cricket team you chose to support. His target in this instance was UK citizens from the Indian sub-continent whom he inferred might prefer to cheer on India or Pakistan when playing against England.

In both these cases the issue of dual nationality is at the heart of the dispute. However, there is no easy solution to resolving the matter. It is a natural response of individuals to express fond feelings for the country of their ancestry and heritage. The fact is that the identity of every individual is comprised of a rich combination of layers depending on how far you are prepared to trace back your ancestry. A popular programme on British television, Who Do You Think You Are?, cleverly exploits this interest in our heritage and regularly comes up with surprising findings.

Given the great movements of people over the centuries as a result of war, conquest and trade, it is really not surprising that many people are the heirs to a rich and diverse background. It is impossible to change this reality. Nevertheless, political solutions are required to ensure fairness prevails and prevent foreign intervention in domestic politics.

Allegations of divided loyalties against minority communities will always be exploited by unscrupulous politicians especially in times of national and international crisis such as an economic downturn. Mass migration facilitated by free movement within the EU has witnessed an influx of millions of European citizens to the UK over the past few years. Such residents are granted voting rights within their host country although there is sparse evidence of them exercising a decisive influence on domestic elections. They are interested in earning a living rather than getting involved in British politics and they do not vote as a block. The Brexit controversy however has politicised the community and for example provoked mass rallies where many EU citizens have participated. It would be ironic if one outcome of Brexit were to see EU citizens exercising more influence on UK politics.

The issue of foreign meddling in British and US politics has recently come to fore with the allegations, often erroneous and unproven, of the strategic posting of “fake news” on social media to sway the EU referendum vote and American presidential election. The effect of such repeated accusations has its inherent dangers and one effect has been to undermine faith in the integrity of the political process. Likewise, suspicions that dual nationals can exercise an undue influence on domestic politics by acting at the behest of their home country poses its own dangers of fuelling community tensions, racism and xenophobia.  It is certainly possible that foreign political leaders could seek to persuade their nationals resident overseas to vote to influence politics in the interests of their home country.

For example, it is estimated that there are now five to seven million citizens of Turkish origin living in Germany. Many Turks are intensely patriotic and loyal to their homeland despite living abroad for decades even if they are the children or grandchildren of Turkish parents. In the event of tensions emerging between Berlin and Ankara it is not too alarmist to envisage a political mobilisation of Turks at election time to exert an influence. These are some of the dilemmas facing all nations in an age of globalisation, mass migration and the consequent inevitable dual loyalties of many citizens.

Dual nationality offers the individual certain advantages over those who only possess single nationality. Dual nationals have access to provisions of social security in both their home and host countries, which are not available to single nationality holders. They can also exercise additional political rights, such as, after a certain required period of residence, they are permitted to vote in their chosen country of residence while retaining the same rights in their home country. With the ever more frequency of postal balloting, the possibilities of dual voting is made that much easier; as is the potential for fraud, since how is it to be established who really has completed a ballot paper? The possibility of transnational voting irregularities are surely made much harder to detect and eliminate by the increase in dual nationality combined with the facility of postal voting, which means you can exercise your vote without even being resident in the country. Online voting might pose additional problems in this respect.

Furthermore, dual nationality holders are also able to stand for office in their country of residence, possibly even standing in both countries at the same time. This issue will need further investigation. If it occurs it would surely be unfair for those without dual nationality to find themselves represented by a candidate who might not even be permanently resident or who may owe loyalties to an overseas country. There is certainly a potential for huge conflicts of interest. The existence of such cases, if exposed in the media, could further undermine faith in the political process, thus undermining the foundations of the democratic system. Everyone would be the victim if this were to prevail or become a norm.

As previously mentioned, dual nationals may be able to exercise their voting and political rights to the advantage of their home country and hence to the disadvantage of their host country and the citizens of that country. In such circumstances, citizens with single nationality may feel resentful and turn against those members of the society whom they feel have privilege or divided loyalties. It is potentially a tinderbox in times of crisis and international tensions and can exacerbate the divisions that already exist within local communities.

© David Morgan