Why we can’t take Mina Zaki at her word on her dual citizenship

Mina Zaki, Liberal candidate for the federal seat of Canberra, may or may not be an Afghani dual citizen. We don’t know for sure because Zaki left a key piece of documentation off of her disclosure with the AEC. Here’s why she should, despite her objections, tell us more.

Under Afghani law, an application to renounce one’s citizenship must be approved by the President. Though Zaki disclosed a letter which states that her “national identity” is no longer valid. Some commentators have pointed out that this could refer to her national identity card and that the letter only recommends that Zaki’s citizenship be revoked, it does not actually unequivocally state that Zaki is no longer a citizen of Afghanistan. It’s fair to ask whether that recommendation was carried out, because if Zaki is elected it could prove problematic.

Zaki believes that recent media interest in her case is unfair.

“Why can’t my word be taken? Why do I have to go through the extra step as a migrant? That’s not fair.” (Canberra Times, 2019)

We live in a post-Citizenship Seven environment. An environment that came after a situation where we found ourselves disqualifying people who didn’t even know they had foreign citizenship (see Ludlam, Waters, Joyce, etc). A situation where even people who had actually renounced their citizenship were disqualified because a foreign government didn’t process their renunciations in time (see Gallagher). Absolute confirmation has become absolutely necessary, especially where lawyers are seemingly chomping at the chain to go after potentially ineligible people – which is what happened when the last string of disqualifications was triggered. In summary, we should be able to take people at their word. We just… can’t. At least, not anymore.

Given this climate, I cannot think of any reason why Zaki – in the interest of transparency – would not want to disclose this crucial document, especially because she claims that she has such documentation and there doesn’t appear to be any kind of penalty for doing so.

“I did have presidential approval [of renouncing citizenship] but I’m not obliged to bring it forward,” (as above)

Not to mention, doing so would eliminate any uncertainty in a political climate where such uncertainty is, in some sense, punished.

That being said, Zaki is unlikely to win the seat of Canberra which, though lacking an incumbent, is notionally held on a 12% margin and any two-party contest in the seat is expected to be between Labor’s Alicia Payne and The Green’s Tim Hollo, who are both preferencing each other higher than the Liberals on how-to-vote cards.