Summer Fuss

In the midst of the silly season, one of our legislators has created waves with an entirely unexpected announcement. He made public his intention to run for a seat in the Portuguese Parliament. There, a couple of legislators are elected in the representation of the Portuguese diaspora living outside Europe. Voter turnaround is usually small, which may have led the deputy to reason that he has a fair chance of getting elected if he can mobilise his local voters. He might get a kind of two-in-one, electorally speaking. The issue, possibly without precedent anywhere in the world, is interesting from an analytical point of view. It is not my intention to advise any of the parties on this issue but to help set a proper framework for analysis. How should we assess the merits and legitimacy of the decision, whether it becomes fact or not? What are the right terms of reference to discuss the matter? Comments by other social and political agents have so far focused on a few topics. First, people question the practical viability of being a legislator in two assemblies operating some 10,000 kilometers apart. I think that is a marginal issue for our purpose. Others point to the diplomatic issues. The positions of China and Portugal are not known, and both will possibly prefer to avoid the issue for now. It is not my intention to delve into what their opinions or actions are likely to be. Then, some question the legality of it. The issue, I would bet, is not considered anywhere in the statutes; nobody ever thought such a situation might occur and, therefore, needed to be expressly spelt out in the legislation. The candidate is indeed relying on the idea that what the law does not forbid is allowed. That may be a weaker argument than it seems. I am sure the legal counsels are working hard on these issues. Nothing of this, however, is at the crux of the matter. First of all, the issue must be framed in political and ethical terms. In abstract, regardless of the particular circumstances or the persons involved, two questions should be clearly answered. Let us assume it is legally acceptable, diplomatically inconsequential and logistically viable: would it be advisable or right to do so? First: what are the real and quantifiable political advantages or risks to any of the stakeholders – candidate, voters, region and countries involved? Is the expected outcome of this political ‘accounting’ exercise clearly desirable to anyone? Second: is it admissible, in principle and under which circumstances, to vow loyalty to two different sovereigns? Or should it always be presumed absolute and undivided? These are the issues where the deliberations, for all parties involved, should start. Subjecting the matter to these filters first would clarify the debate and help us determine if the other aspects mentioned before are worthy of further attention.