This is why no one likes the Crimean referendum

It’s not really about whether Crimea should be part of Russia, nor an abhorrence of all things Putin (as valid as such feelings would be). It’s really about the nation state itself:

Activists pushing for the Italian region of Veneto to become an independent country have claimed that over two million residents backed their call in an unofficial referendum.

Although the poll lacks any legal basis, organisers said the high number of voters -56 per cent of registered voters in the region – meant a clear majority of voting Venetians were in favour of restoring the independent Venetian Republic, which dominated the Mediterranean for centuries until it was occupied by Napoleon.

The result was announced to cheers from supporters in a piazza in Trevisolate on Friday after a week of voting.

“It’s a huge party here, it’s like a reunion,” said Cristiano Zanin, one of the organisers of the poll, which was held online and through polling stations set up by local town halls across the region.

Organisers said that of a total of 2.36 million votes cast, out of a total of 3.7 million qualified voters, 2.1 million voted for independence and a quarter of a million voted against.

What paralyses politicians with fear is that if you just let any old group vote about whether to leave whatever nation state they’re currently crammed into then a lot of them will vote to leave. Crimea from the Ukraine (and does anyone doubt that the result would be different if the referendum was had all over again under more equitable rules?), Catalunia from Spain perhaps, Veneto (or even the whole North) from Italy, perhaps Bavaria from Germany?

Me, I’d be entirely happy with any and all of those outcomes. But the people currently in power wouldn’t be for obvious reasons. And it’s the fear at looking at their own people which makes them insist that no one can leave some other grouping.

24 comments on “This is why no one likes the Crimean referendum

  1. Savoy had a referendum in 1860. Pretty dodgy, being under French military occupation at the time. None been offered since.
    Savoie Libre!

  2. That can be the only reason why, for example, Cameron isn’t campaigning hard to get rid of all those safe Labour seats north of the border.

  3. Slightly different for Crimea, because they are essentially voting to join Russia, rather than independence.

    It’s a bit like in the game Civilization when a city decides to join your nation and you accept, the nation it leaves goes ballistic.

  4. Quite honestly the world was a more diverse place when you could up sticks and move from citystate to city state or principality to grand duchy if you thought the ruling party nuts. The rise of the nation state succeeded by the supranational coalition of ruling classes such as the EU and UN fucked the free thinkers.

  5. I do wonder how the situation in Crimea stacks up against the principle of self determination we argue for Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands (and Scotland for that matter). Does it only work when it is ours and we don’t want to let it go?

  6. “(and does anyone doubt that the result would be different if the referendum was had all over again under more equitable rules?)

    Putin does or he wouldn’t have held such a farcical referendum.

    Given that Crimea voted to leave the USSR 24 years ago along with the rest of Ukraine it isn’t clear what answer a free and fair referendum would produce.

  7. Crimea stacks up the same way the Falklands does, and Cornwall for that matter. If the majority of people want to go another way, it ought to be up to them.

    It’s the Latins, French, Spanish and Portuguese, who can’t contemplate this being allowed.

  8. The Sage,

    “That can be the only reason why, for example, Cameron isn’t campaigning hard to get rid of all those safe Labour seats north of the border.”

    It really doesn’t matter. The FPTP system (generally) creates a 2 party state. If he gets rid of all the Labour seats, Labour, or someone else will just adapt their policies to win more seats in England.

    A referendum loss simply means less for Cameron or Miliband to run.

  9. “Given that Crimea voted to leave the USSR 24 years ago along with the rest of Ukraine it isn’t clear what answer a free and fair referendum would produce.”

    Did the Crimea vote separately from the rest of Ukraine at the time, or were its votes aggregated with them? If the latter we don’t know if they’d have voted to stay with Russia or not. There might have been a pro-Russia majority in the Crimea that was overruled by the wider independence vote throughout Ukraine.

  10. Italy has bigger problems than the Veneto. Although the heat has gone out of the Liga Nord, after its dalliance with Sr Berlusconi, there is still a groundswell of resentment against Rome in the lands north of Florence.
    Most sticky of all is the province of Alta Adige, which was sequestrated from Austria at the end of the Great War, the inhabitants still speak German and call themselves SudTirol. It is official policy of the leading parties SVP and SFP to achieve Anschluss with Austria, not independence.

  11. The pro-independence vote in the 1991 referendum on was 54% in Crimea and 57% in Sevastapol, with a 60% combined turn-out. This was the lowest turn-out as well as the lowest majority of all the Ukrainian districts.

    I don’t think this can be taken as support for Crimea being part of Ukraine – that wasn’t the question being asked. It was a vote for breaking up the Soviet Union – from a Russian perspective it could be seen as an vote for Yeltsin and against Gorbachev.

  12. and does anyone doubt that the result would be different if the referendum was had all over again under more equitable rules?

    Well yes. It was such a massive victory for the pro-Putin camp. Even though only about 58% of Crimeans are Russians. It looks like fraud to me. After all, the 25% of Ukrainians probably did not vote to split. And if any Tatars (12%) did, they were nuts.

    The people who should be afraid of all this ought to be the Scottish Independence parties. The rest of Europe is, I would guess, less than thrilled by the idea of anyone voting to leave.

  13. Funny that Putin was so adamant that the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation was sacrosanct that he flattened Grozny to make his point. Maybe the Chechens should hold a referendum. And Karelia, for that matter.

  14. It is also a matter of stability being generally better than instability and peace better than war. Carving up countries does get armies marching to decide who gets to go where, who does the counting and where the line is drawn.

    I suspect that if Scotland (improbably) chooses separation we will see Orkney and Shetland choosing either separate independence or to remain in the UK (taking most of the oil).

    Not saying countries should never split, but it should be done slowly, with clear majorities and boundaries 0n genuine ethnic lines.

    On the 3rd hand, as a believer that federation is the most stable system and most productive of freedom and progress, I can see Venice with its history as an entrepreneurial state, might do very well independent of Italy or indeed the EU. Some regions of India might now be like Singapore if it had become independent as a multiplicity of countries.

  15. Tim Newman – the Chechens should definitely hold a referendum if they want to leave Russia. The “murder Russian children” strategy of the Chechen jihadis didn’t work.

  16. A lot of these independence suggestions look fine on paper, but as was discovered with the negotiations on Scotland, having your own currency and central bank is a big move that can bankrupt a new country in year one, without economic control you are not really independent.

    The concept of non-fiat currency might be a good solution, but the fiercest fighters for independence are usually quite nationalistic and unlikely to be favourable of any libertarian ideals.

  17. Tim N – unfortunately for the Finns, Karelia has been pretty much totally Russified now.

  18. Throughout some of these comments and the original post there does seem an assumption thT people will just leave you alone in your nice small bijou little state.

  19. I agree 100% and have long believed that referenda should be a major part of the political process for issues like this and others. You observe that people currently in power wouldn’t like the idea at all for obvious reasons. You may think me to be intellectually challenged and I would not be offended at all if you did but for the life of me as hard as I think about it I cannot understand why they should not like the idea apart from reducing the number of those they have power over.

  20. Tim Newman – the Chechens should definitely hold a referendum if they want to leave Russia. The “murder Russian children” strategy of the Chechen jihadis didn’t work.

    I’m no fan of the Chechens, or their claims to independence, or their tactics, but their original Declaration of Independence was peaceful and met with indiscriminate violence by the Russians. It’s a bit rich to now suggest that they should now hold a referendum, when they pretty much did a couple of decades ago and got clobbered for it.

  21. London and the South East of England should hold a referendum to become an independent state, free of all the other moochers.

  22. Pingback: Rowing, and some other stuff [Stoat] | Gaia Gazette

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