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Crimean referendum

A referendum on the status of Crimea (Russian: общекрымский референдум, Ukrainian: загальнокримський референдум, Crimean Tatar: Umum Qırım referendumu) is scheduled to be held on 16 March 2014 by the legislature of Crimea as well as by the local government of Sevastopolsubdivisions of Ukraine. Regionally, Crimea has a long and complex history whose demographics have undergone dramatic changes. The referendum will ask the people of these regions whether they want to join Russia as a federal subject, or if they want to restore the 1992 Crimean constitution which, according to analysts cited by Reuters, "only offers a slightly longer route to shifting the peninsula back under Russian control" since the 1992 constitution gives the Crimean assembly powers to choose relations with whom it wants and the assembly has already stated it wants to return Crimea to Russia.[2] The available choices do not include keeping status quo as a part of the Ukraine. Regardless of this, media outlets expect the choice to join Russia to be declared as winner under questionable circumstances.[a][b][c][d]

The referendum is polarized by a divide in the international community regarding its legitimacy and the events surrounding it. Furthermore, both the Crimean parliament and the city council of Sevastopol consider the referendum legitimate as they consider the ousting of the former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, to be illegal, arguing that it did not follow due process. Because of this, the bodies argue that they must inquire of its people what they want of their future. The European Union, Germany, France, and several other nations, in contrast, recognize the newly appointed interim government in Ukraine and condemn the actions taken by Crimea and Sevastopol, including the referendum. In addition, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People—the body that represents the Crimean Tatars living in Crimea— has called for a boycott of the referendum.[4][5]

During the period of the Soviet Union, the Crimean Oblast was a subdivision of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic until the 1954 transfer of Crimea into the Ukrainian SSR. Crimea became part of independent Ukraine after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, shortly after Crimea had re-gained its autonomy following a 1991 referendum.[6] Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine abolished the 1992 Crimean Constitution[7] and the office of President of Crimea in 1995 when separatist Yuriy Meshkov was banned from the country.[8] The post of President of Crimea has lasted one year. Crimea gained a new constitution in 1998 that granted less autonomy; notably, any legislation passed by the Crimean parliament could be vetoed by the Ukrainian parliament.[6]

In February 2014 polling found about 41% of Crimean people wanted Ukraine to unite with Russia. In 2013 only 35.9% of Crimean people shared the same opinion.[9] 77% of Crimea's and 94% of Sevastopol's population are native speakers of Russian.[citation needed]According to the 2001 Ukrainian population census 58.5% of the population of Crimea are ethnic Russians, 24.4% are ethnic Ukrainians and 12.1% are Crimean Tatars.[10] All Tatars were deported from Crimea and many killed in May 1944 by Soviet leader Stalin's order.[citation needed] Only after 1991 were they able to return in greater numbers to Crimea.[citation needed]

Crimea and Sevastopol are neighboring subdivisions of Ukraine located in the Crimean peninsula, a region with a long and complex history.[11][12] Demographically, the region is currently populated by Russian-speaking majorities but with such demographics undergoing dramatic changes for the past 200 years that have shifted the ethnic majorities from Crimean Tatars to ethnic Russians, due in part to the their deportation 70 years ago.[e][f][g][4]The interim Ukrainian government, United States, European Union, and several other nations state that any referendum held by the local government of Crimea without the express authority of Ukraine is unconstitutional and illegitimate; and that the local Crimean government lacks under authority under Ukrainian law.[4][5] Additionally, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People (a representative body of Crimean Tatars) has called for a boycott of the elections.[4][5]
Russia and the Crimean parliament argue that the referendum is legal, citing the UN recognized right of self-determination and the advisory opinion on Kosovo in which the International Court of Justice declared that international law contains no prohibition against declarations of independence.[16][17][18] Western legal scholars have disputed the validity of the Kosovo analogy.[h]The Associated Press described the referendum as, "essentially a declaration of independence from Ukraine".[i][j] The approval to hold a referendum, however, was taken under a highly diffused environment polarized by uncertainty that lacked external diplomatic observers while Crimea was under a military intervention by Russia. Five days before voting day the OSCE chair, Switzerland's Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, declared the referendum as illegal under Ukrainian law and because of that the OSCE will not send observers.[22][23]
On March 11, 2014 the Supreme Council of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council adopted a resolution expressing their intent to declare independence following the referendum, and on March 14 the Crimean parliament removed the coat of arms of Ukraine from its building.[24]On 27 February 2014, amidst tensions in the region during the Ukrainian revolution, the Crimean Council voted to hold a referendum on the status of Crimea on 25 May 2014.[k][26] Olha Sulnikova, head of information and analysis department of parliament, reported on the phone from inside the parliamentary building that 61 of the registered 64 deputies had voted for the referendum resolution and 55 for the resolution to dismiss the government.[27]Interfax-Ukraine reported that, "it is impossible to find out whether all the 64 members of the 100-member legislature who were registered as present, when the two decisions were voted on or whether someone else used the plastic voting cards of some of them" because due to the armed occupation of parliament it was unclear how many members of parliament were present.[27]
Enver Abduraimov, member of the parliament presidium, said that he did not go inside when he saw that armed guards who secured the building were confiscating all communications devices from deputies. Andriy Krysko, head of the Crimean branch of the Voters Committee of Ukraine, announced that no one from the parliament secretariat was in the building when voting took place.[27]
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