A People’s Vote: Fake Words

I am highly suspicious when words are misused by politicians and those lobbying for something. The latest example is the us of the phrase of “a people” vote”. These fake words are used by many politicians seeking a second referendum on the UK’s previous referendum about the European Union. It is as though the previous referendum was not a vote by people. Continue reading

To be in or not to be in; that is the question

To be in, or not to be in, that is the question that the citizens of the United Kingdom will have to answer on 23 June 2016 when they vote in the sea of troubles that will comprise the referendum.

There are three matters that should influence a voters’ decision; different voters will give different weight to each matter.

  1. Freedom; will we enjoy more freedom within the EU or without it?
  2. Prosperity; will we enjoy a better standard of living in the EU or outside the EU?
  3. Safety; will we be safer within by being part of the EU by being outside the EU?

Continue reading

Democracy 1 Bureaucracy 0 (Half Time)

The Greek referendum vote contrary to predictions by journalists and contrary to the leaders of Eurozone nations that are not in default turned out to be a rather overwhelming vote which supported the Greek government and by implication supported their efforts to secure a what the Greek regard as a fairer deal to end or help end their financial crisis. Continue reading

An Inconvenient Interference

Politicians do not like democracy. It is an inconvenient interference in the running of the places they govern and reminds them, too clearly, that politicians are servants, not masters.  Continue reading

Vote For the Official Monster Raving Looney Party

No one wants a government that they did not vote for to run the country. The Scots who voted for independence recently used as a main plank of their argument for independence that Scotland had had to “suffer” a government which the Scots did not elect and by independence they would be able to enjoy a government that they did elect.
That argument is hopeless. Of course, a majority of people in Scotland did not vote for the same government (or coalition) that a majority of people in the whole United Kingdom elected. That is the nature of democracy. In the referendum the people of Glasgow did not vote to stay in the United Kingdom. The people who live in the house where I lived have during the last twenty five years voted for all sorts of political parties including the Green Party and on one desperate occasion when the candidates were all disgusting, the Official Monster Raving Looney Party. Perhaps I should declare my home to be independent of the United Kingdom. I could then set up my own government, my own tax regime and ensure that those who governed me always met with my approval.

Divorce in Haste, Repent at Leisure

It seems more likely now that the Scots will vote to separate from the Union of this island. I wish them well if they want to be independent as opposed to pseudo independent, which will merely enable a few politicians to exercise greater power than at present, but make no bones about it, a “yes” vote in the referendum will be the start of what will be several years of acrimony, argument and legal cases. No doubt the Scots will readily agree a constitution for a new state and the legal framework is already in hand; the Scots will simply have to decide whether their appellate system will incorporate the Supreme Court, or whether they will be happy to see divergence on the laws of the two jurisdictions with all the economic effect that would entail. Continue reading

The Legality of the Referendum in Crimea

I take an interest in international law, which is a mysterious branch of law, because so much of it seems to be made up by economic winners or military victors in order to oppress their competitors or the defeated. Nevertheless there is a large body of international law these days, but much of it is uncertain.

When various politicians and commentators claimed that the referendum that is being held in the Crimea today was illegal under international law, I could not understand the rationale of such claim. It may be that the referendum was called too hastily to enable a proper consideration of the issues or that there are fears that the referendum will be manipulated, corrupted or no more than a propaganda exercise.  I was at a loss to discover how the holding of a referendum can be illegal.

I think the answer is obvious: it is not illegal for part of a state to hold a referendum about independence or cessation. If it were then the forthcoming referendum in Scotland would be illegal and the referendum which decided the split of the Slovakia from Czechoslovakia would have been illegal but patently they were not.

Whether if following the results of a referendum the Crimea declared independence or Union with the Russian federation such moves would be illegal under international law is another question. In such matters international law usually takes a pragmatic view; those who control an area are recognised as the lawful government of it, usually but not always.

I suppose that what those who describe the referendum in Crimea fear is this: if it is shown that there was a free and fair referendum held according to ordinarily accepted principles of democracy and that referendum proved that the majority of Crimeans want to leave the Ukraine, then such a result would be inconvenient to those who oppose this happening. It is inconvenient for the western democracies to find that the Crimeans prefer Russia to the Ukraine, but inconvenience is not illegality.

Some argue that the illegality of the referendum is determined by Article 73 of the Ukrainian Constitution which states that alterations to the territory of Ukraine shall be resolved exclusively by the All-Ukrainian referendum. However, that provision does not, as far as I can see prohibit the counting of votes, and what is illegal under the Ukrainian Constitution is not necessarily illegal under international law.

The referendum being held today is not a choice between all the options available to the people of the Crimea; they are only being allowed to vote on whether the Crimea should secede or be absorbed into the Russian Federation and there is no choice being given to remain part of the Ukraine. That certainly seems to me to designate the referendum as being undemocratic, but it is not against international law to hold undemocratic elections and if it were very few elections would be legal.

On that point one could argue that the forthcoming Scottish referendum is undemocratic because it allows only a choice of two options – the choice of a third option of more autonomy within the United Kingdom will not be available to the Scots.