O tell me the truth about the referendum

Crimea has took its decision. And it was an incontrovertible one. Some 83% of its inhabitants went to polls Sunday to express their will about the future of the (former) autonomous republic inside Ukraine, and 97% of them voted in favor of reunion with Russia. That’s quite a plebiscite. And yet somebody have something to say about it.


"Nothing in the way that the referendum has been conducted should convince anyone that it is a legitimate exercise. It is a mockery of proper democratic practice”, british Foreign Secretary William Hague said. And yet the referendum has been endorsed by countries like Syria, Venezuela and North Korea. Besides Russia, of course.

Well, we must admit that 97% is a little weird figure.  Let’s take stock of the situation. Crimea is inhabited by almost two millions of people, 58% of which are ethnic Russians, 24% Ukrainians and 12% Tatars. The latter have repeatedly stated they would never have voted for anything but being in Ukraine, and among the ethnic Ukrainians – we can suppose – there could be more than a mere 3% who don’t want become part of Russia. With a 1,5 million of eligible voters it means that some half a million of ethnic Ukrainian and Tatar of Crimea have voted to become part of Russia.

Besides the result, the turnout itself is another element of oddity. Considering the traditionally low election turnout in Crimea - for the last parliamentary election in 2012 went to vote only 49% of Crimeans – and repeated calls by the opponents to boycott the referendum, 83% of people going to polls was an exploit.

How was that possible?


Three simple rules for a happy referendum

The “mockery of democratic practice” has its rules.

First, how you put the right questions on the bulletin. The two options were: 1. “Are you in favor of unifying Crimea with Russia as a part of the Russian Federation?” 2. “Are you in favor of restoring the 1992 constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?” The second question was a little tricky: the 1992 constitution was adopted after the collapse of the USSR and immediately abandoned because provided for Crimea as an independent state. The consequences of voting for either of these questions were almost identical, and there was no chance to vote for the status quo. People who wanted to express the will to remain part of Ukraine could only choose between becoming part of Russia soon or later.

Second, how you schedule it. “The referendum has taken place at 10 days' notice, without a proper campaign or public debate, with the political leaders of the country being unable to visit Crimea, and in the presence of many thousands of troops from a foreign country”, continued William Hague.

The referendum was in the beginning scheduled for May 25. But after that, the Crimean Parliament changed the date twice to arrive at the last Sunday, March 16. While anticipating the referendum more than a month ahead, the Crimean Parliament also voted to join Russia and adopted a declaration on the independence: Crimea would be declared an independent state if people would vote for joining the Russia Federation. A little confused?

Third, make a good campaign and let the polling stations be as festive as a country fair. What we have seen during the voting operations is something very far from what we are used to. Crowds of voters going to and fro in the polling stations with an open bulletin in their hand, unfolded bulletins casted in transparent ballot boxes, sometimes by happy children, sample bulletin hung at the entrance of the polling stations with a red tick marked on the first question, and no international observers to spoil the party.

If a mockery was, it was a cheap one.

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