Thursday, June 13, 2013

How can Julian Assange become a Senator while stuck in the UK?

Julian Assange, Wikileaks, Election 2013, Senate, Constitution
Julian Assange's Senate candidacy for the Wikileaks Party throws up some interesting constitutional and political issues.

The Constitution says that a person convicted and sentenced or awaiting sentence for an offense with a penalty of one year imprisonment or more cannot be a Senator. It doesn't mention whether that conviction or sentence is restricted to Australian law, but that is the presumption.

On the face of it, although Assange faces possible charges in Sweden, and arguably the US, this does not disqualify him because it is not Australia that is pursuing him and in any case he is yet to be charged or tried. And although Australia has said it is investigating whether Assange has broke Australian law, there has been recent movement along that path.

Running for the Australian Senate is clearly a tactical move to ward off  foreign powers, particuarly the US, because it would be less likely to pursue Assange if he was a duly elected representative of the Australian people.

A greater threat to Assange's successful career as Senator, apart from the question of getting enough votes, is the Constitutional clause about absence from the Senate:

'The place of a senator shall become vacant if for two consecutive months of any session of the Parliament he, without the permission of the Senate, fails to attend the Senate.' Part II, 20.
If Assange is still holed-up in the Ecuadorian Consulate into next year, he is unlikely to survive attempts to oust him from his Senate position, should he win one.

More likely he intends to make a dash for Australia if he is successful in the election, believing sensitivity to Australian sovereignty will save him in the UK and that the Australian Government will also be unwilling to extradite him to Sweden or the US. But that still seems a long shot, particularly if Australian politicians are making unsympathetic noises here, given the annoyance Assange has been in Europe.

Barring some legal or political solution, Assange's long term Senate prospects seem problematic at best, despite the new 'body politic' he continually proclaims to be creating.

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