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Australian government loses its majority after MP resigns over dual citizenship

The prime minister ruled out the possibility of a no-confidence motion, and claimed that independents in the lower House would support his government.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Saturday said that he would not call for a general election after his government lost its majority following the resignation of a member of Parliament over a citizenship crisis, The Australian reported.

Earlier on Saturday, Conservative Liberal party MP John Alexander resigned as he probably had a British citizenship as well by descent. “My right to remain in Parliament depends on my belief that I am solely Australian,” Alexander told reporters in Sydney, according to The Guardian. He is expected to contest a bye-election in December.

Australia’s Constitution prohibits people with dual citizenship from being elected. The High Court of Australia ruled in October that five lawmakers were ineligible to rule as they held dual citizenships when they were elected in 2016.

“Given what I have learned about the constitution and understanding now of the high court decision just a couple of weeks ago, I can no longer, with sufficient certainty, maintain the belief that I have held through my 66 years,” Alexander added. “Therefore, it is my obligation that I must resign...I think there is a great need for certainty, to clarify the situation and to do so as expeditiously as possible.”

Following the resignations of Alexander and former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, Turnbull’s government now has 73 votes in Australia’s lower House. Of the 148 members in the House, 74 are from the government, including the speaker who can only vote during ties. The Opposition Labor party has 69 members and five are independents.

But Turnbull, who was in Vietnam’s Danang city on Saturday to attend the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit, ruled out the possibility of a no-confidence motion. “We have the support of the crossbench [Independents] on matters of confidence and supply,” he added.

Turnbull also urged Labour MPs with similar citizenship problems to quit and contest elections.

He also said that he expects Joyce to be re-elected soon. “Barnaby Joyce’s bye-election is on December 2. Nobody takes...the judgement of the people of New England for granted but every expectation I think is that he will be returned.”

The matter first came to light in July when a senator had stepped down after he discovered that he held dual citizenship. Following this, various senators put their citizenship proofs in public domain.

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