WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asked his Twitter followers on April 19 if he should stand in the upcoming UK general election.
Should I run in the UK general election? The government has detained me without charge for seven years:https://t.co/0VmWWBCxfC
— Julian Assange 🔹 (@JulianAssange) April 19, 2017
Assange has lived in the Embassy of Ecuador in London since 2012 after he was granted asylum by Ecuador, and would presumably run for the Cities of London and Westminster constituency seat currently held by Mark Field, vice chair of the Conservative Party.
There are two considerations: Is Assange eligible to hold office, and is he disqualified from running?
According to the Electoral Commission, MP candidates must be at least 18 years old and a British citizen, Irish citizen or an eligible Commonwealth citizen [pdf] who are not otherwise disqualified.
Assange was born in Australia in 1971 to Australian parents and is therefore a Commonwealth citizen.
An eligible Commonwealth citizen is a Commonwealth citizen who either:
- does not need leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, or
- has indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom
Electoral Commission guide
Australian citizens can remain in the UK for up to 6 months without a visa but don’t have the right to stay indefinitely, nor are they permitted to work.
Potential MPs cannot run if they are holders of certain offices, such as civil servants, police officers, judges or members of the House of Lords.
Members of the European Parliament cannot stand for election in the UK.
Furthermore, there are a number of legal disqualifications, including imprisonment and court decisions.
1.10 You are disqualified under the Representation of the People Act 1981 if you have been convicted of an offence, have been sentenced to be imprisoned or detained for more than a year and are detained anywhere in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, or are unlawfully at large.
Electoral Commission guide
Prosecutors in Sweden want to question Assange in connection with two sexual assaults, but he has not actually been formally charged with any crime in Sweden, the UK or the US.
Assange’s lawyers had asked the UK to block his extradition to Sweden, and the WikiLeaks founder maintains that he would be at risk of extradition to the United States where he would presumably be charged in connection with the Chelsea Manning case.
When the UK Supreme Court ruled in May 2012 that Sweden’s arrest warrant was valid, Assange breached the terms of his bail agreement and sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy.
Julian Assange is likely not eligible to stand for a seat in the UK Parliament.
As Assange has not been convicted, sentenced or imprisoned in the UK and is not detained, he is likely eligible to stand for election under the Representation of People Act.
However, as a citizen of Australia who would require a visa to remain in the UK for longer than 6 months, or to work.
Even if the Sweden case were resolved prior to the election, the UK would likely not give Assange leave to remain in the country.