Independence referendum

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An independence referendum is a type of referendum in which the residents 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.

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 a national or the federal governments, then the international community will rely on several other factors, e.g. were the local people oppressed by the central government or not, to decide if the result can be recognized or not.

Scottish Government and UK central government delegates discussing the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

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, like the Donbas status referendums.

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 now that the United Kingdom has left the European Union.

Past independence referendums[edit]

Proposed state Year Former state Majority for independence Independence Recognition of result Notes
 Chile 1817 Spain Yes Yes No Unilaterally declared independence.
 Liberia 1846 American Colonization Society Yes Yes Yes
Maryland 1853 Maryland State Colonization Society Yes Yes Yes
 Norway 1905 Sweden–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  China Yes Yes Yes Initially recognized by the Republic of China, but the recognition is abolished in 1953; recognized by the People's Republic of China.
 Faroe Islands 1946  Denmark Yes No No Independence declaration annulled by Denmark.
 Newfoundland 1948  United Kingdom No No Yes
 Nagaland 1951  India Yes No No Unrecognized by the government of India.[2]
 Saar 1955  France No No Yes Integrated with West Germany.
Cameroon 1958 No No Yes Referendum on a new French constitution. A no vote would have led to independence.
 Central African Republic 1958 No No Yes
 Chad 1958 No No Yes
Comoros 1958 No No Yes
 Republic of the Congo 1958 No No Yes
 Dahomey 1958 No No Yes
Djibouti 1958 No No Yes
French Polynesia 1958 No No Yes
Gabon 1958 No No Yes
 Guinea 1958 Yes Yes Yes
 Ivory Coast 1958 No No Yes
 Madagascar 1958 No No Yes
Mali 1958 No No Yes
Mauritania 1958 No No Yes
New Caledonia 1958 No No Yes
 Niger 1958 No No Yes
 Saint Pierre and Miquelon 1958 No No Yes
Senegal 1958 No No Yes
 Upper Volta 1958 No No Yes
 Western Samoa 1961  New Zealand Yes Yes Yes
 Algeria 1962  France Yes Yes Yes
 Malta 1964  United Kingdom Yes Yes Yes
 Rhodesia 1964 Yes De facto No Unilaterally declared independence.
Djibouti 1967  France No No Yes
 Puerto Rico 1967  United States No No Yes
 West Papua 1969  Indonesia No No Yes
Northern Mariana Islands 1969  United States No No Yes
 Bahrain 1970  United Kingdom Yes Yes Yes
 Niue 1974  New Zealand Majority for associated status Associated status achieved Yes Became an associated state of New Zealand.
Comoros 1974  France Yes Yes Yes Mayotte remained with France.
 Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands 1975  United States No No Yes
 Guam 1976 No No Yes
 Aruba 1977  Netherlands Yes No Yes Independence plans dropped in 1994.
 Djibouti 1977  France Yes Yes Yes
 Nevis 1977  Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla Yes No No Unofficial referendum to become independent from Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla and attain Crown colony status within the British Empire. Unrecognized by the central government.
 Quebec 1980  Canada No No Yes
 Ciskei 1980  South Africa Yes De facto Partial Recognized by South Africa; not by the international community.
 Guam 1982  United States No No Yes
 Federated States of Micronesia 1983 Yes Yes Yes Became an associated state of the United States.
 Marshall Islands 1983 No No Yes
 Palau 1983 No No Yes Became an associated state of the United States.
1984 No No Yes
 Cocos (Keeling) 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 Yes Yes Yes
 Croatia 1991  Yugoslavia Yes Yes Yes
 Estonia 1991  Soviet Union Yes Yes Yes
 Georgia 1991 Yes Yes Yes
Kosova 1991  Yugoslavia Yes No No Only recognized by Albania.
 Latvia 1991  Soviet Union Yes Yes Yes
 Lithuania 1991 Yes Yes Yes
 Macedonia 1991  Yugoslavia Yes Yes Yes
 Nagorno-Karabakh 1991  Soviet Union Yes De facto No Unilaterally declared independence.
 Ukraine 1991 Yes Yes Yes
 Transnistria 1991 Yes De facto No Unilaterally declared independence.
Gagauz Republic 1991 Yes De facto[3] No Unilaterally declared independence. Reintegrated with Moldova in 1994.
Turkmenistan 1991 Yes Yes Yes
 Uzbekistan 1991 Yes Yes Yes
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992  Yugoslavia Yes Yes Yes
 Montenegro 1992 No No Yes
 South Ossetia 1992  Georgia Yes De facto No Unilaterally declared independence.
 Tatarstan 1992  Russia Yes Yes No Reintegrated with Russia in 1994.
 Eritrea 1993  Ethiopia Yes Yes Yes
 United States Virgin Islands 1993  United States No No Yes
 Puerto Rico 1993 No No Yes
 Curaçao 1993  Netherlands No No Yes
 Bonaire 1994 No No Yes
 Sint Maarten 1994 No No Yes
 Saba 1994 No No Yes
 Sint Eustatius 1994 No No Yes
 Bermuda 1995  United Kingdom No No Yes
 Quebec 1995  Canada No No Yes
Seborga 1995[4]  Italy Yes No No Regarded to be a micronation.
Anjouan 1997  Comoros Yes De facto No Reintegrated with the Comoros in 2001.
 Nevis 1998  Saint Kitts and Nevis Yes No Yes 2/3 majority was required for independence.
 Puerto Rico 1998  United States No No Yes
 East Timor 1999  Indonesia Yes Yes Yes
 Sint Maarten 2000  Netherlands No No Yes
 Somaliland 2001  Somalia Yes De facto No
 Bonaire 2004  Netherlands No No Yes
 Saba 2004 No No Yes
 Kurdistan 2005  Iraq Yes No No
 Curaçao 2005  Netherlands No No Yes
 Sint Eustatius 2005 No No Yes
 Montenegro 2006  Serbia and Montenegro Yes Yes Yes
 South Ossetia 2006  Georgia Yes De facto No
 Transnistria 2006  Moldova Yes De facto No
 Tokelau 2006  New Zealand Majority for associated status
but Quorum not reached
Associated status not achieved Yes The referendum was on whether Tokelau should become an associated state of New Zealand. 2/3 majority was required.
2007 Majority for associated status
but Quorum not reached
Associated status not achieved Yes
Tamil Eelam 2009-2010  Sri Lanka Yes No No Unofficial referendum. Unrecognized by the government of Sri Lanka.
 South Sudan 2011  Sudan Yes[5] Yes Yes
 Puerto Rico 2012  United States No No Yes
Donetsk 2014  Ukraine Yes[6] De facto[7] No Unilaterally declared independence.
Luhansk 2014 Yes[6] De facto[7] No Unilaterally declared independence.
 Veneto 2014  Italy Yes No No Unofficial referendum. Unrecognized by the government of Italy.
 Scotland 2014  United Kingdom No No Yes
Catalonia 2014  Spain Yes No No
 Sint Eustatius 2014  Netherlands No No Yes
South Brazil 2016  Brazil Yes No No Unofficial referendum. Unrecognized by the government of Brazil.
 Puerto Rico 2017  United States No No Yes
 Kurdistan 2017  Iraq Yes No[8] No The referendum also took place in the disputed territories of Northern Iraq.
Catalonia 2017  Spain Yes No[9] No Unilaterally declared independence. Declaration annulled by the government of Spain.[10]
South Brazil 2017  Brazil Yes No No Unofficial referendum. Unrecognized by the government of Brazil.
 New Caledonia 2018  France No No Yes
 Bougainville 2019  Papua New Guinea Yes Subject to negotiation[11] Yes Nonbinding vote.[12] Independence rests with Papua New Guinea's parliament.[13]
 New Caledonia 2020  France No No[14] Yes
2021 No No Yes Boycotted by pro-independence parties.[15]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Neverendum referendum: Voting on independence, Quebec-style". BBC News Online. 8 September 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  2. ^ Walling, A. Wati; Agrawal, Ankush; Phom, B. Henshet (1 January 2018). Democracy In Nagaland: Tribes, Traditions, and Tensions. Highlander Press. ISBN 9780692070314.
  3. ^ Marcin Kosienkowski (2017) The Gagauz Republic: An Autonomism-Driven De Facto State The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review, volume 44, no. 3, pp292–313
  4. ^ Roth, Christopher F. (March 2015). Let's Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar (PDF). Litwin Books, LLC. p. 90. In 1995, Giorgio held a referendum, with Seborgans opting for independence 304-4.
  5. ^ South Sudan backs independence – results
  6. ^ a b "In eastern Ukraine, polls close amid allegations of double-voting - CNN.com". CNN. 11 May 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Russia Praises Ukraine's Autonomy Law for Rebel Areas". WSJ. 17 September 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  8. ^ "Iraqi Kurds offer to 'freeze' independence referendum result". BBC. 25 October 2017. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  9. ^ Catalonia independence: Spain takes charge of Catalan government BBC News, 28 October 2017
  10. ^ Suspendida la declaración de independencia de Cataluña (in Spanish)
  11. ^ Lyons, Kate (2019-12-10). "Bougainville referendum: region votes overwhelmingly for independence from Papua New Guinea". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019-12-11.
  12. ^ "Bougainville referendum not binding - PM". Radio New Zealand. 2019-03-11. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
  13. ^ Mckenna, Kylie; Ariku, Emelda (19 November 2021). "Bougainville independence: recalling promises of international help". The Interpreter. Retrieved 3 December 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ Sartre, Julien; Doherty, Ben (4 October 2020). "New Caledonia rejects independence from France for second time". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  15. ^ "New Caledonia pro-independence parties reject referendum result". Al Jazeera. 13 December 2021. Retrieved 14 December 2021.