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 Year 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
 Iceland 1918  Denmark Yes Yes Yes
 Western Australia 1933  Australia Yes No No
 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 Territory later transferred to West Germany
 Cameroon 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Central African Republic 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Chad 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Comoros 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Republic of the Congo 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Dahomey 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Djibouti 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 French Polynesia 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Gabon 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Guinea 1958  France Yes Yes Yes The referendum was on the new French constitution. A no vote led to independence
 Ivory Coast 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Madagascar 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Mali 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Mauritania 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 New Caledonia 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Niger 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Saint Pierre and Miquelon 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Senegal 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Upper Volta 1958  France No No Yes Referendum on the new French constitution. A no vote would have 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 De facto No
 Djibouti 1967  France No No Yes
 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.
 Northern Mariana Islands 1969  United States No No Yes A majority voted for integration with Guam
 Bahrain 1970  United Kingdom Yes Yes Yes The question was whether Bahrainis preferred annexation by Iran or independence.
 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.
 Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands 1975  United States No No Yes Only voters in what would become the Federated States of Micronesia voted for independence.
 Guam 1976  United States No No Yes A majority voted for an improved status quo
 Aruba 1977  Netherlands Yes No Yes Plans for full independence were scrapped in 1994
 Djibouti 1977  France Yes Yes Yes
 Nevis 1977  Saint Kitts and Nevis Yes No No Referendum organised by the Nevis Reformation Party but not recognised by the Saint Kitts and Nevis government.
 Quebec 1980  Canada No No Yes
 Ciskei 1980  South Africa Yes De facto No Like other Bantustans, its independence was not internationally recognised.
 Guam 1982  United States No No Yes
 Micronesia 1983  United States Yes Yes Yes Micronesia became an associated state of the United States
 Marshall Islands 1983  United States No No Yes
 Palau 1983  United States No No Yes Voters approved the Compact of Free Association with the United States
 Palau 1984  United States No No Yes Voters again approved the Compact of Free Association with the United States
 Cocos Islands 1984  Australia No No Yes
 Falkland Islands 1986  United Kingdom No No Yes
 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 De facto No Led to de facto independence
 Ukraine 1991  Soviet Union Yes Yes Yes
 Transnistria 1991  Moldova Yes De facto 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 De facto No Led to de facto independence
 Eritrea 1993  Ethiopia Yes Yes Yes
 United States Virgin Islands 1993  United States No No Yes
 Puerto Rico 1993  United States No No Yes
 Curaçao 1993  Netherlands No No Yes A majority voted for restructuring the Netherlands Antilles
 Moldova 1994 N/A Yes Yes Yes The issue was whether Moldova should retain its independent status
 Bonaire 1994  Netherlands No No Yes A majority voted for keeping the status quo.
 Sint Maarten 1994  Netherlands No No Yes A majority voted for keeping the status quo.
 Saba 1994  Netherlands No No Yes A majority voted for keeping the status quo.
 Sint Eustatius 1994  Netherlands No No Yes A majority voted for keeping the status quo.
 Bermuda 1995  United Kingdom No No Yes
 Quebec 1995  Canada No No Yes Results ; Yes : 49.42 No : 50.58
 Anjouan 1997  Comoros Yes Yes No Anjouan remained de facto independent until 2001
 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
 Sint Maarten 2000  Netherlands No No Yes A majority voted for becoming a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
 Bonaire 2004  Netherlands No No Yes A majority voted for integration with the Netherlands
 Saba 2004  Netherlands No No Yes A majority voted for direct constitutional ties with the Netherlands
 Kurdistan 2005  Iraq Yes No No
 Curaçao 2005  Netherlands No No Yes A majority voted to become an Autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands
 Sint Eustatius 2005  Netherlands No No Yes A majority voted for remaining part of the Netherlands Antilles
 Montenegro 2006  Serbia and Montenegro Yes Yes Yes
 South Ossetia 2006  Georgia Yes De facto No The issue was whether South Ossetia should retain its de facto independent status
 Transnistria 2006  Moldova Yes De facto 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
Donetsk People's Republic Donetsk 2014  Ukraine Yes[3] De facto[4] 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[3] De facto[4] 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 and through self-organised voting booths by a private organization, Plebiscite 2013, without voter verification, and without the cooperation of the Italian national or Venetian regional governments. Plebiscite 2013 claimed a turnout rate of 63.2% of all eligible voters,[5] while critics of the poll cited turnout rates as low 3.6%, and traced a large portion of the website's traffic to users outside Italy.[6][7][8][9]
 Scotland 2014  United Kingdom No No Yes
 Catalonia 2014  Spain Yes No No
 Sint Eustatius 2014  Netherlands No No Yes A majority voted for autonomy within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but low turnout invalidated the result.

Scheduled 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.[10]
Iraqi Kurdistan  Iraq No Originally to be held in late 2014, later postponed.[11][12][13] See Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum.
 New Caledonia Between 2015 and 2018  France Yes See Nouméa Accord.
 Bougainville Between 2015 and 2020[14]  Papua New Guinea Yes

See also[edit]

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. ^ a b "In eastern Ukraine, polls close amid allegations of double-voting - CNN.com". CNN. 11 May 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Russia Praises Ukraine's Autonomy Law for Rebel Areas". WSJ. 17 September 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "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. 
  6. ^ http://corrieredelveneto.corriere.it/veneto/notizie/politica/2014/26-marzo-2014/indipendenza-numeri-sono-falsi-2224268533592.shtml corrieredelveneto
  7. ^ "Numeri falsi, i counter confermano �Il 10 per cento dei voti dal Cile� - Corriere del Veneto". corrieredelveneto.corriere.it. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  8. ^ "Referendum Veneto, "150mila voti non 2 milioni". Organizzatori attaccano: "Falso" - Il Fatto Quotidiano". ilfattoquotidiano.it. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  9. ^ "La Stampa - Voti gonfiati al referendum veneto “Un elettore su 10 collegato dal Cile”". lastampa.it. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  10. ^ FSM state independence push unfounded Radio NZ, 27 February 2015
  11. ^ "Iraq: Kurdish president proposes independence referendum". the Guardian. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  12. ^ AFP (07/03), Irak : le président de la région du Kurdistan demande un référendum d'indépendance  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. ^ http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/09/05/kurds_agree_to_postpone_independence_referendum.html
  14. ^ "Bougainville confirms independence referendum before 2020 - Pacific Beat". Retrieved 30 September 2014.