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Greg Dorey


Part of UK in Ukraine

23rd March 2014

How not to hold a referendum

crimeaThe Crimean referendum of 16 March falls far below recognised international standards.

To begin with, it is unconstitutional. Ukraine’s constitution clearly states that the status of any part of the country’s territory can only be changed as the result of a nationwide referendum. No one objected to the idea of a referendum as such.

And what about freedom of choice? A referendum carried out under military occupation hardly allows for the exercise of free will.

The will also go down in history as one of the most hastily organised referenda ever. Originally scheduled for 25 May, it was then brought forward to 30 March and then again to 16 March. The preparations were characterised by a complete lack of transparency over the composition of local electoral commissions; voters’ lists; the number of ballot papers issued – and the list goes on. No legitimate referendum can be organised with just 10 days’ notice.

The referendum also took place in the absence of any meaningful monitoring by impartial domestic or international observers. There is no clarity on who voted; whether only registered voters were allowed to vote; or indeed if the results were in any way real.

The Crimean referendum will not bring a lasting peace for the region. It attempts to legitimise, retrospectively, the unilateral actions of one state acting in isolation. A state that has chosen the military option as a first and not last resort. Any country that cares about the sanctity of internationally agreed borders and  of international agreements has no option but to reject this external interference in a sovereign country.

Russia is a great nation. A cradle of culture. But they are demeaning themselves through this shoddy bullying.