Samstag, 10. Mai 2014

Ukraine crisis: Will the Donetsk referendum matter?

Placard advertising referendumThe ballot paper asks: "Do you support the act of state self-reliance of the Donetsk People's Republic?"
The self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic intends to hold a referendum on its independence from Ukraine on 11 May.
The vote will be held in parts of Donetsk, historically known as the Donbass coal-mining area, and some towns and cities in the neighbouring region of Luhansk.
The referendum is deemed illegal both by the Ukrainian government and the international community.
line break
What is the aim of the referendum?
The objective of the referendum has changed several times. Initially, the vote was meant to decide on the federalisation of Ukraine and grant higher status to the Russian language. Later, self-proclaimed leaders said people should be asked whether they wanted their regions to join Russia "Crimea-style".
As of 8 May, the ballot papers contain only one question in both Ukrainian and Russian: "Do you support the act of state self-reliance of the Donetsk People's Republic?"
Representatives of the self-proclaimed state have said they intend to hold a second round of the referendum on 18 May, this time on the republic joining the Russian Federation.
line break
Where will it be held?
The referendum is set to take place in the cities and towns controlled by separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
The Donetsk republic's election chief, Roman Lyakhin, said that since the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) had blocked access to up-to-date voter registers, the referendum would use voter rolls from the 2012 parliamentary election.
About 3 million ballot papers are said to have been printed, with the combined population of the two regions standing at about 6.7 million. Ukrainian TV has shown ballot papers being printed on a regular printer and bearing no protection marks.
As the separatists control only some towns and cities, it is not yet clear how much of the territory of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic the referendum will actually cover. Recently, SBU chief Valentyn Nalyvaychenko issued an official warning to 27 mayors in the Donetsk, Luhansk and Mykolayiv regions that they could face criminal punishment if they engage in separatist actions.
The pro-Russian separatist Army of the Southeast intends to count the votes and publish the results of the referendum three days after the voting is over.
line break
Who supports the referendum?
Separatists announce referendum Separatists, including the self-proclaimed co-chairman of the Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin (C), want greater autonomy from Kiev
Though the idea of more autonomy for the region is quite popular, it is unlikely that the majority of the local population will support the referendum in its current form.
Donetsk mayor Oleksandr Lukyanchenko of the former ruling Party of Regions has said the population has doubts about the legality of the referendum and people are puzzled by the question.
Mr Lukyanchenko said he was not asked by the separatists to assist in conducting the vote, but added he would have to comply if they demanded to use schools as polling stations: "Do you want them to bomb the schools in revenge?"
line break
Is it legal?
There are no provisions on local referendums in the Ukrainian legislation. This means there are no grounds for official recognition of the vote. According to Mr Lukyanchenko, the legal basis for holding the ballot in the region is "absent".
Donetsk governor Serhiy Taruta has called the referendum "a pure travesty". Opposition MP Mykola Levchenko has also questioned its legitimacy, pointing out that there is no law providing for the vote to be held.
line break
Will there be observers?
The self-proclaimed Army of the Southeast has said it will invite international observers to monitor the referendum. So far, only Russia has expressed willingness to send monitors.
The US has strongly criticised the idea of the referendum, with Secretary of State John Kerry dismissing it as artificial and illegal. The EU has also said that it will not recognise the vote.
line break
What's at stake?
flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic Some residents have been flying the flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic
In the absence of legal provisions and lack of unanimous backing from the local population, it is unclear what, if anything, the referendum can achieve.
Experts agree it is unlikely that Russia will voice unqualified support, even if a majority of voters back +independence. With the Ukrainian "antiterrorist operation" gradually gaining momentum in eastern Ukraine, the referendum, if held, can hardly have a serious impact, unless Moscow opts for a Crimean scenario.
line break
How is it different from Crimea?
Most experts agree the Donetsk referendum will not have much significance for the region. While the demand for the region's self-determination is high, the vote's dubious nature and logistical difficulties mean it is unlikely to get wide support from the local population or be recognised as genuine.
Without direct help from Moscow, as was the case in Crimea, its results appear impossible to implement.
line break
What is Kiev saying?
The Ukrainian government has said that it generally favours holding a nationwide referendum on decentralisation simultaneously with the 25 May presidential election.
However, the Ukrainian parliament on 6 May rejected a draft law on holding a legally non-binding referendum.
"It must be held, but not during a war," pro-government Fatherland MP Oleksandr Bryhynets argued.
line break
Moscow's stance
Vladimir Putin (9 May 2014)The separatists have decided to go ahead with the vote despite President Vladimir Putin's call to postpone it
According to Ukrainian media reports, the Kremlin is indirectly involved with the referendum.
But in a surprise statement on 7 May, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine to postpone the vote in order to "create necessary conditions for a dialogue".
His statement was dismissed as "hot air" by Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, while pro-Russian activists in Donetsk and Luhansk decided that the referendum should go ahead as planned.

Keine Kommentare: