Referendums on independence and secession

Authored by: Matt Qvortrup

Routledge Handbook of State Recognition

Print publication date:  September  2019
Online publication date:  September  2019

Print ISBN: 9780815354871
eBook ISBN: 9781351131759
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores the creation of states through referendum and the prospects for international recognition. Looking at three types of independence referendums, namely ad hoc referendums, initiatives and constitutional referendums, this chapter finds that referendums rarely result in immediate independent statehood. Moreover, the chapter finds that referendums are not neutral democratic instruments of self-determination; rather, they are a strategic tactic in a long struggle for generating domestic and international legitimacy for independent and recognisable statehood. Using original statistical data, the chapter concludes that in addition to the consent of the base state and affirmative popular support, the support of major international powers plays a key role in the success of independence referendums.

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