The Dual Citizenship


This article first appeared in LiveEncounters (https://liveencounters.net/2018-le-mag/08-august-2018/vivek-mehra-on-dual-citizenship/)


Question: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 external voting? (This may include influencing politicians by external pressure and money power e.g. Turkey’s President Erdogan’s visit to Germany to woo Turkish voters, who are also German citizens. The German Government is highly critical of Erdogan’s ‘rights record’ and many Germans view the Turkish elements within their country as having a questionable ‘dual loyalty’.)

(Note: India has a good system: though it doesn't permit dual citizenship it grants special status to 'Citizen of Indian Origin' (CIO). Each CIO gets a special id which looks like a passport. It entitles a CIO to live in India indefinitely without a visa, do business, marry, buy property etc. BUT it disallows voting rights.)


The question of dual citizenship hinges on the definition of the term “Citizen”. 

The most common definition I have found is the one describing the citizen as belonging to a particularcountry/nation. 


The concept of dual citizenship is therefore a technically wrong one. There could be many reasons why a country would allow its citizens to concurrently ‘belong’ to another country. It is this selective acceptance of citizenship that creates the hurdles in our thinking and what is seen in practice. A simplistic approach to rights of a citizen would be to classify rights as those that help the citizen be an active participant in decision making that affects him and his family directly. The right to vote for a government is thus given to those who are affected directly by the decision of the elected authority.


The question on disadvantage and advantage of dual citizenship is best viewed from the lens of collective decision making. People who don’t live in a country but have some affiliation to it, are not directly affected by decisions an elected government makes. For this reason alone the right to vote must be restricted to permanent residents of a country. There are many approaches to dealing with this problem. There isn’t any one approach that seems to be fool proof. But citizens opting for dual citizenship need to be prepared for this ambiguity. Voting rights extended to non-resident citizens is clearly a practical conundrum more than a moral one. The resident is most affected by any decision a democratically elected government makes. His pain comes well before that of a non-resident.


On this ground alone dual citizenship should rightly continue to deny rights to non-residents to vote. There are the other moral rights that need to be considered. Taxation or active contribution to the government is primarily the responsibility of resident citizens. Dual citizens could be contributing in an indirect manner to the exchequer. This raises the question of who pays for what. The lens of cash contribution to the exchequer is complex one and there are arguments on both sides. What works for a country is relevant to the country’s its creation, resources and overall ability to provide for its citizens. 

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