The 2014 Referendum in Crimea
East European Quarterly, vol. 41, no. 1, March 2015, 111-128
18 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2015
• The “referendum” in Crimea held on 16 March 2014 fulfilled the criteria of neither legality nor legitimacy. • The “referendum” was conducted in breach of Ukraine’s domestic, bilateral (Ukraine-Russia) and international legal frameworks. • The procedure for the preparation and conduct of the “referendum” on the day, including its international observation, was entirely inadequate. • The “referendum” cannot be considered as a legitimate expression of popular will due to the violation of the criteria of free and fair voting and due to the actual number of voters and their choices being unknown. • The “referendum” creates a precedent of illegal irredentism in interstate politics and a violation of international law.
This note provides an analysis of the legality and legitimacy of the so-called referendum on the status of Crimea held on 16 March 2014. It is argued that the “referendum” fulfilled neither criteria and hence cannot be considered either as legally valid or legitimately representative of public opinion. In conclusion the following points are made: first, a standpoint in both the Russian and Western mass-media of interpreting the “referendum” as a proxy for an opinion poll is misguided. Second, the “referendum” undermines political stability in Ukraine and beyond as it sets a precedent for illegal irredentism portrayed as democratic process.
Keywords: referendum, Crimea, Ukraine, Russia
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