Australia's top court has ruled that the deputy prime minister is disqualified from his seat in parliament because he held dual citizenship when elected. As a result, the ruling coalition will lose its majority.
Australia's High Court on Friday ruled that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is ineligible to sit in parliament due to dual citizenship.
The decision deals a blow to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's Liberal-National coalition, which has a one-seat majority in the lower house. Joyce became the latest of a handful of lawmakers and government officials in Australia to lose their posts over citizenship-related controversies.
The loss of the seat will force Turnbull to reach out to one of three independent lawmakers to maintain a ruling majority.
The court ordered a by-election for Joyce's seat. He will be able to contend in the by-election.
Senator seats to stay in the party
Australia's constitution states that members of parliament cannot be "a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power."
The court also ruled on the status of six other lawmakers in the senate. Four of them were also disqualified while two others were allowed to keep their seats. Unlike in the house, the ineligible senators' seats will be given to another member of their parties, leaving balance of power in the senate unchanged.
The lawmakers recognized that they were dual nationals at the time of the election. The government argued that five of the lawmakers should still be eligible, including Joyce, because they were unaware of dual citizenship at the time of the election.
Joyce renounces New Zealand citizenship
Joyce was born in Australia, but had New Zealand citizenship through his father. He renounced it after last year's election. He said he was unaware of his dual nationality before the election.
The dual citizenship drama started in July when a lawyer tried to unseat an independent senator. The senator had already renounced his New Zealand citizenship before the election, but the case led to politicians and the media accusing other lawmakers of violating the constitution.
cw/dj (dpa, Reuters)