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Independence referendum

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.

Contents

ProcedureEdit

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.

NegotiationsEdit

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.

 
Donbass status referendum in 2014 was rejected as illegal by the Ukrainian government

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.

AftermathEdit

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 independence referendumsEdit

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 The referendum was on whether voters approved the ratified dissolution of the union between the two constitutional states.
  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
  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 Referendum 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 The majority black population could not vote in the referendum; consequently the result was rejected by the United Kingdom and internationally. This prompted the contested Unilateral Declaration of Independence.
  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. All 1,025 voters unanimously voted "yes" by show of hands.
  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 become 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.
  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1979   United Kingdom Yes Yes Yes Referendum organised by the Saint Vincent Labour Party under Milton Cato.
  Quebec 1980   Canada No No Yes
  Ciskei 1980   South Africa Yes De facto Recognized by South Africa Like other Bantustans, its independence was not internationally recognised.
  Guam 1982   United States No No Yes
  Federated States of 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 (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   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
  Kosovo 1991   Yugoslavia Yes No Recognized by Albania
  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   Soviet Union Yes De facto No Led to de facto independence
  Ukraine 1991   Soviet Union Yes Yes Yes
  Transnistria 1991   Soviet Union 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
  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 "No" won by 1.16%.
  Seborga 1995   Italy Yes No No Residents voted 304 to 4 for independence.[2] Regarded by most to be a micronation rather than a de facto state.
  Anjouan 1997   Comoros Yes De facto 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 become 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 become 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[3] Yes Yes Independence was achieved on 9 July 2011.
  Puerto Rico 2012   United States No No Yes
  Donetsk 2014   Ukraine Yes[4] Declared[5] No The issue was whether the Donetsk People's Republic should retain its de facto independent status. Only controls a portion of its claimed territory.
  Lugansk 2014   Ukraine Yes[4] Declared[5] No The issue was whether the Lugansk People's Republic should retain its de facto independent status. Only controls a portion of its claimed territory.
  Veneto 2014   Italy Yes No No The referendum was conducted online and through self-organized voting booths by a private organization, Plebiscite 2013, without voter verification, and without the cooperation of the Italian national or Venetian regional governments. 89% of residents voted to split from Italy.[6][7] An official referendum on Venetian autonomy took place on 22 October 2017, with 98% voting in favor of special autonomy for Veneto.
  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.
  South Brazil 2016   Brazil Yes No No Described as a "Plebisul", the turnout was only 2.91%.
  Puerto Rico 2017   United States No No Yes If a majority of voters selected the "Independence/Free Association" option, another independence referendum between those two options would've been held. However, a majority of voters voted for U.S. statehood.
  Kurdistan 2017   Iraq Yes No[8] No The referendum also took place in the disputed territories of Northern Iraq regarding article 140.
  Catalonia 2017   Spain Yes No[9] No The Parliament of Catalonia unilaterally declared the formation of a Catalan Republic on 27 October 2017. The declaration was not recognized by the Government of Spain which continued to regard Catalonia as part of its sovereign territory and asserted direct control at the beginning of the workday on 30 October. On 31 October, 2017 the Constitutional Court of Spain formally revoked the declaration with retroactive effect.[10]
  New Caledonia 2018   France No No Yes

Scheduled independence referendumsEdit

Proposed State Date Current state Recognition Notes
  Chuuk 5 March 2019[11]   Micronesia Yes
  Bougainville 15 June 2019[12]   Papua New Guinea Yes The date is only tentative as the island has to meet certain criteria before the vote can happen.
  New Caledonia 2020   France Yes

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Neverendum referendum: Voting on independence, Quebec-style". BBC News Online. 8 September 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ South Sudan backs independence – results
  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. ^ Roberts, Hannah (2014-03-21). "Venice votes to split from Italy as 89% of the city's residents opt to form a new independent state". Mail Online. Retrieved 2016-11-10.
  7. ^ "89% of Veneto residents vote for independence from Rome". RT. 2014-03-23. Retrieved 2016-11-10.
  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. ^ http://www.huffingtonpost.es/2017/10/31/suspendida-la-declaracion-de-independencia-de-cataluna_a_23262184/
  11. ^ Cagurangan, Mar-Vic (2018-08-02). "Breaking away from FSM? Think again, US envoy tells Chuuk". Pacific Island Times. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  12. ^ "Ball rolling on Bougainville referendum". Radio New Zealand. 2016-05-22. Retrieved 2016-05-30.