A Kenya-born woman has moved closer to becoming a senator in Australia after a vote recount ordered by a court went in her favour, Australia’s state broadcaster reports.
Lucy Gichuhi won the recount conducted on the orders of an Australian High Court in its April 5 verdict.
Now all she needs is an official declaration of the recount by the court before she becomes one of Australia’s 76 senators.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports that Mrs Gichuhi, if cleared, will become the first person of Kenyan descent elected to the country’s Federal Parliament.
“I am honoured and grateful for this opportunity to serve Australia. I see it as an opportunity to give back to this great nation,” Mrs Gichuhi said in a statement sent to ABC.
But Mrs Gichuhi, who was born in Hiriga village in Nyeri County and left Kenya for Australia in 1999, faces a hurdle before the court — that of confirming if she is an Australian citizen.
To be a senator in Australia, one must not hold dual citizenship and questions have been emerging from some quarters as to whether she has given up her Kenyan citizenship.
In an interview with the Nation on Saturday, Mrs Gichuhi said she became an Australian citizen in 2001, two years after she, her husband and their three children relocated to the country as permanent residents.
She said she had left Kenya as an accountant and her husband as a quantity surveyor but in Australia she went back to school and became a lawyer while her husband is now an engineer.
“I am an Australian citizen and am eligible to serve. I will continue to take advice on all of these matters as we move forward,” Mrs Gichuhi said in the statement published by ABC.
Kenya’s High Commissioner to Australia Isaiya Kabira has also weighed in on the citizenship matter.
“Our records indicate she has never applied for dual citizenship. We respect her decision to be an Australian citizen,” he told The Weekend Australian last week.
Australia’s acting shadow attorney-general Katy Gallagher told ABC that the citizenship matter was a “complicated legal issue”.
“After obtaining legal advice from senior counsel, the ALP is considering making a further submission on this matter when the Court of Disputed Returns considers it again next week,” she said. “This is not about Ms Gichuhi, this is about the integrity of the Senate and electoral system.”
During the senate vote of July 2016, Mrs Gichuhi was vying to represent the state of South Australia on a Family First Party ticket.
The only other candidate in the party was Bob Day, and given the number of votes the party received, only one candidate would head to the Senate.
Mrs Gichuhi had considered the seat lost, as Mr Day was selected to represent the state.
But Mr Day’s eligibility to vie was questioned in court. In the verdict issued last week, High Court judges sitting in the Court of Disputed Returns found that he had done business with the government by renting out a house in 2015.
Having annulled Mr Day’s candidature, the judges ordered a special recount of the votes.
That meant Mrs Gichuhi was a likely taker of the seat because unlike the Kenyan system, where a candidate is elected, in Australia it is the party that is elected first before the number of its representatives in the senate is determined using a specified formula.