Australia has been thrown into political crisis after a decision by the country’s High Court to invalidate the deputy prime minister’s election lost the government its single-seat majority in parliament.
The court found Barnaby Joyce and four other parliamentarians ineligible due to their holding of dual-citizenship, even though they all claim they did not know they were citizens of another country at the time of the election. Two other MPs’ elections were upheld.
The Liberal-led government has called a December by-election for the seat previously held by Mr Joyce in a bid to restore its slender majority in the House of Representatives. Mr Joyce held New Zealand citizenship at the time of his election.
The other four MPs sit in the Senate so their ineligibility does not affect the government’s majority.
Australia’s constitution bars dual citizens from sitting in parliament, defining them as “any person who is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power”.
The five MPs ruled ineligible are Mr Joyce, Fiona Nash, Scott Ludlam, Larissa Waters and Malcolm Roberts. Nick Xenophon and Matt Canavan survive.
The judgment raises questions over whether decisions made by Mr Joyce and Ms Nash, minister for regional development, could be challenged in court and ruled invalid.