Monday, March 17, 2014

On The Crimea Referendum

Okay, Crimea has had its referendum, and apparently over 95% of those who voted, chose to align with Russia.

I don't know the full context of the politics in Crimea.  I do understand that Kruschev signed control over Crimea over to Ukraine back in the 1950s, so I'm sure that there is quite likely some sense of tension in Crimea with respect to being part of Ukraine.  There are also a number of ethnic minorities on the peninsula who no doubt have their own unique concerns.  Whether Crimea is "legitimately" part of Ukraine, or merely as a matter of Soviet-era political expediency is no doubt a matter of some discussion.

As a Canadian, I've lived through two referendums on Quebec independence from this country.  All of those have been quite lengthy debates - practically speaking, on the order of years really - over the merits of Quebec separating from Canada.

A referendum on such a matter held in a mere two weeks seems to me one in which there has not been an adequate discussion of the issues.  How can you reasonably discuss that kind of change over two weeks?  It isn't a trivial discussion - there are pros and cons to be weighed on both sides.  I just cannot imagine that it has been openly discussed fully in the time allotted.

A second concern with the Crimea referendum is the fact of undertaking such a referendum when the region has been under the direct military control of the Russian Army, I find it very difficult to believe that this is an open vote.  Military occupation, of any sort, inherently distorts the local political landscape.

Third, there are questions around the ballot question itself.  In Canada, the separatists have long played some very strange games with semantics.  The ballot options themselves seem to be somewhat loaded, and that is also questionable.
The referendum offered voters the choice of seeking annexation by Russia or remaining in Ukraine with greater autonomy. After 50 percent of the ballots were counted, more than 95 percent of voters had approved splitting off and joining Russia, according to Mikhail Malishev, head of the referendum committee.
This strikes me as something of a "loaded question" - it essentially appears to be a matter of "Join Russia or Separate From Ukraine".  That seems deeply problematic to me as well.  Again, this speaks to a problematic execution of the referendum.

I won't go so far as to declare the referendum invalid, but I am profoundly concerned that the referendum itself is likely more political theatre than it is a valid piece of statecraft. 

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