Independence referendum

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An independence referendum is a type of referendum in which the citizens of a territory decide whether the territory should become an independent sovereign state. An independence referendum that results in a vote for independence does not always ultimately result in independence.

The articles on specific referendums are linked with dates in the table on past referendums.

Procedure[edit]

An independence referendum typically arises first after political success for nationalists of a territory. This could come in the election of politicians or parties with separatist policies, or from pressure from nationalist organisations.

Negotiations[edit]

Negotiations for the terms of an independence referendum may take place between the nationalists and the government which exercises sovereignty over the territory. If terms can be agreed, then the independence referendum can be held with its result binding, and respected by the international community. Independence referendums can be held without the consent of governments, but their results are usually ignored by the international community.

Various issues can be discussed in negotiations, such as the date and timing of the poll, as well as voter eligibility. For these instances, common electoral practice is often widely used, although there can be deviations, as seen with the lowering of the voting age for the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

Other issues to be negotiated include what question or questions should be on the ballot, and what the voting options could be. Independence referendums can offer options of greater autonomy as well as, or instead of, the status quo. They can also put forward other constitutional questions to ballot. The questions that referendums ask may be revised if parties involved in negotiations consider them to be too leading.

Negotiations notably need to address what would make a result binding. For some independence referendums, a simple majority is required for one option. In other cases, a quota can be used, where a certain percentage of the vote or the electorate needs to be in favour of an option for it to be binding.

Successful negotiations can be hard to achieve for nationalists, as governments can be reluctant to give up sovereignty. For example, nationalists planned to hold a referendum in Catalonia in 2014, but met opposition from the Spanish government. As a result, the referendum that went ahead was unofficial and non-binding.

Aftermath[edit]

In the event of a vote for independence, there may be negotiations on the terms of secession for the territory from the sovereign state. A declaration of independence for a new state is then made, and international recognition can follow, as well as membership of international organisations such as the United Nations. In cases involving non-binding referendums, this can lead to a unilateral declaration of independence, and therefore partially recognised or self-proclaimed states.

In the event of a vote against independence, there may still be a strong nationalist movement and calls for there to be a rerun of the independence referendum. For example, after two referendums in Quebec, the Parti Québécois has continued to raise the prospect of holding another referendum,[1] and the Scottish National Party has said that there should be a repeat of the 2014 referendum if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

Past referendums[edit]

Proposed state Date Former state Majority for independence Independence Recognition Notes
 Liberia 1846 American Colonization Society Yes Yes Yes
Maryland 1853 Maryland State Colonization Society Yes Yes Yes
 Norway 1905 Sweden and Norway Yes Yes Yes
 Western Australia 1933  Australia Yes No No The result was ignored by the British Parliament
 Iceland 1944  Denmark Yes Yes Yes
 Cambodia 1945  France Yes Yes Yes
 Mongolia 1945  Republic of China Yes Yes Yes
 Faroe Islands 1946  Denmark Yes No No The Declaration of Independence was annulled by Denmark
 Saar 1955  France No No Yes Saar voters' rejection of independence prompted France to negotiate the Saar Treaty, transferring the territory to West Germany.
 Guinea 1958  France Yes Yes Yes The question asked was whether Guinea wanted to join the French Community; the failure of the referendum led to independence
 Samoa 1961  New Zealand Yes Yes Yes
 Algeria 1962  France Yes Yes Yes
 Malta 1964  United Kingdom Yes Yes Yes
 Rhodesia 1964  United Kingdom Yes State with limited recognition No
 Cook Islands 1965  New Zealand Majority for associated status Associated status achieved Yes The referendum was on whether the Cook Islands should became an associated state of New Zealand. This status is sometimes considered to be independence.
 Puerto Rico 1967  United States No No Yes
 West Papua 1969  Indonesia No No Yes The question asked was whether West Papua wanted to give up its sovereignty to Indonesia, with an alleged majority yes.
 Bahrain 1970  United Kingdom Yes Yes Yes The question was whether Bahrainis preferred annexation by Iran or independence.
 Northern Ireland 1973  United Kingdom No No Yes The referendum was boycotted by the republicans.
 Niue 1974  New Zealand Majority for associated status Associated status achieved Yes The referendum was on whether Niue should became an associated state of New Zealand. This status is sometimes considered to be independence.
 Comoros 1974  France Yes Yes Yes The country declared independence on 6 July 1975, with Mayotte remaining under French control.
 Aruba 1977  Netherlands Yes No Yes Plans for full independence were scrapped in 1994
 Djibouti 1977  France Yes Yes Yes
 Quebec 1980  Canada No No Yes
 Ciskei 1980  South Africa Yes State with limited recognition No Like other Bantustans, its independence was not internationally recognised.
 Micronesia 1983  United States Yes Yes Yes Micronesia became an associated state of the United States
 New Caledonia 1987  France No No Yes
 Slovenia 1990  Yugoslavia Yes Yes Yes
 Armenia 1991  Soviet Union Yes Yes Yes
 Azerbaijan 1991  Soviet Union Yes Yes Yes
 Croatia 1991  Yugoslavia Yes Yes Yes
 Estonia 1991  Soviet Union Yes Yes Yes
 Georgia 1991  Soviet Union Yes Yes Yes
Kosova 1991  Yugoslavia Yes No No
 Latvia 1991  Soviet Union Yes Yes Yes
 Lithuania 1991  Soviet Union Yes Yes Yes
 Macedonia 1991  Yugoslavia Yes Yes Yes Independence was achieved in 1993.
 Nagorno-Karabakh 1991  Azerbaijan Yes State with limited recognition No Led to de facto independence
 Ukraine 1991  Soviet Union Yes Yes Yes
 Transnistria 1991  Moldova Yes State with limited recognition No Led to de facto independence
 Turkmenistan 1991  Soviet Union Yes Yes Yes
 Uzbekistan 1991  Soviet Union Yes Yes Yes
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992  Yugoslavia Yes Yes Yes
 Montenegro 1992  Yugoslavia No No Yes
 South Ossetia 1992  Georgia Yes State with limited recognition No Led to de facto independence
 Eritrea 1993  Ethiopia Yes Yes Yes
 Curaçao 1993  Netherlands No No Yes
 Puerto Rico 1993  United States No No Yes
 Moldova 1994 N/A Yes Yes Yes The issue was whether Moldova should retain its independent status
 Sint Maarten 1994  Netherlands No No Yes
 Bermuda 1995  United Kingdom No No Yes
 Quebec 1995  Canada No No Yes Results ; Yes : 49.42 No : 50.58
 Nevis 1998  Saint Kitts and Nevis Yes No Yes 62% of voters approved of independence, but a 2/3 majority was required.
 Puerto Rico 1998  United States No No Yes
 East Timor 1999  Indonesia Yes Yes Yes The referendum was organised by the United Nations; independence was achieved in 2002
 Kurdistan 2005  Iraq Yes No No
 Montenegro 2006  Serbia and Montenegro Yes Yes Yes
 South Ossetia 2006  Georgia Yes State with limited recognition No The issue was whether South Ossetia should retain its de facto independent status
 Transnistria 2006  Moldova Yes State with limited recognition No The issue was whether Transnistria should retain its de facto independent status
 Tokelau 2006  New Zealand Majority for associated status Associated status not achieved Yes The referendum was on whether Tokelau should became an associated state of New Zealand. This status is sometimes considered to be independence. 60% of voters approved, but a 2/3 majority was required.
 Tokelau 2007  New Zealand Majority for associated status Associated status not achieved Yes The referendum was on whether Tokelau should became an associated state of New Zealand. This status is sometimes considered to be independence. 60% of voters approved, but a 2/3 majority was required.
 South Sudan 2011  Sudan Yes[2] Yes Yes
 Puerto Rico 2012  United States No No Yes
 Gagauzia 2014  Moldova Yes No No The question asked was if Gagauzia should declare independence if Moldova ever united with Romania.[3]
 Crimea
 Sevastopol
2014  Ukraine Yes Yes No Led to the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation
Donetsk People's Republic Donetsk 2014  Ukraine Yes[4] Yes[5] No The issue was whether the Donetsk People's Republic should retain its de facto independent status. Only a portion of this territory can be considered independent.
Luhansk People's Republic Lugansk 2014  Ukraine Yes[4] Yes[5] No The issue was whether the Lugansk People's Republic should retain its de facto independent status. Only a portion of this territory can be considered independent.
 Veneto 2014  Italy Yes No No The referendum was conducted online by a private organization, Plebiscite 2013, without voter verification, and without the cooperation of the Italian national or Venetian regional governments. Plebiscite 2013 claims a turnout rate of 63.2% of all eligible voters,[6] while critics of the poll cite turnout rates as low 3.6%, and trace a large portion of the website's traffic to users outside Italy.[7][8][9][10]
 Scotland 2014  United Kingdom No No Yes
 Catalonia 2014  Spain Yes No No

Expected independence referendums[edit]

Proposed state Date Current state Recognition Notes
Chuuk State Chuuk Federated States of Micronesia Micronesia No Originally scheduled for 3 March 2015, but later indefinitely postponed.[11]
Khalistan India India No Originally scheduled for 2020.[12]
Iraqi Kurdistan  Iraq No Originally to be held in late 2014, later postponed.[13][14][15] See Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum.
 New Caledonia Between 2015 and 2018  France Yes See Nouméa Accord.
 Bougainville Between 2015 and 2020[16]  Papua New Guinea Yes

Plausible independence referendums[edit]

Proposed state Proposed date Current state Information
 Veneto TBD  Italy Venetian Independence and other alike groups have been long proposing a referendum on the independence of Veneto from Italy. After the Regional Council of Veneto approved a resolution on self-determination (with an explicit reference to a referendum) in November 2012,[17][18] a referendum bill was proposed in April 2013.[19] In the meantime, Plebiscite 2013 (a non-partisan committee, formed mainly by former members of Venetian Independence) organised an online referendum, with no official government recognition, for 16–21 March 2014.[20][21][22] According to the organisers, turnout was 63.2% and 89.1% of participants voted yes.[23][24] This was enough for Plebiscite 2013 to declare Veneto's independence.[25][26][27][28] In June the Regional Council finally discussed and passed a law concerning a referendum on special autonomy for Veneto and another in order to hold a referendum on the independence of Veneto.[29] See also Venetian nationalism#Recent developments.
 Scotland TBD  United Kingdom Scotland may ask a new independence referendum in case the United Kingdom leaves the European Union[30] or its demands for more autonomy will be neglected. According to an opinion poll, almost half of Scottish voters back a re-run of the 2014 independence referendum by 2024.[31][32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Neverendum referendum: Voting on independence, Quebec-style". BBC News Online. 8 September 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2015. 
  2. ^ South Sudan backs independence – results
  3. ^ "Gagauzia Voters Reject Closer EU Ties For Moldova". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. February 2, 2014. Retrieved December 20, 2014. In addition, 98.9 percent of voters supported Gagauzia's right to declare independence should Moldova lose or surrender its own independence. 
  4. ^ a b "In eastern Ukraine, polls close amid allegations of double-voting - CNN.com". CNN. 11 May 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Russia Praises Ukraine's Autonomy Law for Rebel Areas". WSJ. 17 September 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "Veneto Libero, Indipendente (nella Nato in Europa e con l'Euro.... Il Problema è lo STATO ITALIANO) - Rischio Calcolato". rischiocalcolato.it. Retrieved 2014-03-25. 
  7. ^ http://corrieredelveneto.corriere.it/veneto/notizie/politica/2014/26-marzo-2014/indipendenza-numeri-sono-falsi-2224268533592.shtml corrieredelveneto
  8. ^ "Numeri falsi, i counter confermano �Il 10 per cento dei voti dal Cile� - Corriere del Veneto". corrieredelveneto.corriere.it. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  9. ^ "Referendum Veneto, "150mila voti non 2 milioni". Organizzatori attaccano: "Falso" - Il Fatto Quotidiano". ilfattoquotidiano.it. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  10. ^ "La Stampa - Voti gonfiati al referendum veneto “Un elettore su 10 collegato dal Cile”". lastampa.it. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  11. ^ FSM state independence push unfounded Radio NZ, 27 February 2015
  12. ^ http://www.referendum2020.org/
  13. ^ "Iraq: Kurdish president proposes independence referendum". the Guardian. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  14. ^ AFP (07/03), Irak : le président de la région du Kurdistan demande un référendum d'indépendance  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  15. ^ http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/09/05/kurds_agree_to_postpone_independence_referendum.html
  16. ^ "Bougainville confirms independence referendum before 2020 - Pacific Beat". Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  17. ^ "Consiglio Regionale Veneto - Sala stampa". Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  18. ^ "Consiglio Regionale Veneto - Progetti di legge e proposte". Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  19. ^ "Consiglio Regionale Veneto - Sala stampa". Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  20. ^ "�Indipendenza, 700 mila voti» Scontro sul referendum digitale - Corriere del Veneto". Corriere del Veneto. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  21. ^ "BBC News - Venice votes on splitting from Rome". BBC News. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  22. ^ "Venetians vote to say arrivederci to Italy". The Times. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  23. ^ "REFERENDUM DI INDIPENDENZA DEL VENETO: I RISULTATI". Repubblica Veneta, federale, indipendente, libera e sovrana. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  24. ^ "Veneto Libero, Indipendente (nella Nato in Europa e con l'Euro.... Il Problema è lo STATO ITALIANO) - Rischio Calcolato". Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  25. ^ "Referendum indipendenza Veneto: 2 milioni di sì". rainews. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  26. ^ "In mille dichiarano l’indipendenza �Ora Zaia può solo inseguirci» - Corriere del Veneto". Corriere del Veneto. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  27. ^ "Veneto residents support leaving Italy in unofficial referendum". Telegraph.co.uk. 21 March 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  28. ^ "Venice votes to split from Italy as 89% of the city's residents opt to form a new independent state". Mail Online. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  29. ^ "Indipendenza del Veneto, via libera del consiglio regionale al referendum". Corriere del Veneto. 2014-06-12. 
  30. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/nov/14/scotland-demand-independence-vote-uk-leaves-eu-snp-nicola-sturgeon
  31. ^ http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/scottish-politics/almost-half-of-the-country-wants-to-see-independence-referendum-again.25900277
  32. ^ http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/u/more-than-a-quarter-of-scots-against-a-second-referendum.1416223844

See also[edit]