March 17, 2014

Crimean voters had a choice on their ballot

Posted by WARREN PERLEY – Editor,
Writing from Montreal

There seems to be confusion and misunderstanding about the wording of the second question of the Crimean referendum ballot of March 16, 2014.

On March 17, the CBC quoted Mikhail Malishev, head of the Crimean referendum committee, as saying that initial results indicated that 95 percent of voters in that region approved of leaving Ukraine in favour of becoming part of Russia.

The CBC News story was an amalgam of reporting by The Associated Press and the CBC’s own reporters, including Susan Ormiston:

The two referendum ballot questions as reported online in the CBC piece were:

  • Do you support reunifying Crimea with Russia as a subject of the Russian Federation?
  • Do you support the restoration of the 1992 Crimean constitution and the status of Crimea as part of Ukraine?

Ormiston is quoted as saying: “The ballot actually doesn’t give an option to stay in Ukraine. The second option is to vote for an autonomous Crimea…so the result is almost decidedly clear that this part of Ukraine will vote to go for Russia today.”

In the next paragraph, the CBC article states: “This second question refers to a constitution that asserts Crimea is an independent state and not part of Ukraine. Reference to autonomy within Ukraine was inserted at a later date.”

What does it mean when the CBC says a “reference to autonomy within Ukraine was inserted at a later date”? Inserted into what? Inserted into the Crimean constitution? If so, when was the original constitution passed and when was the “inserted” reference to “autonomy within Ukraine” passed.

Without giving historical context to that paragraph, it is incomprehensible and meaningless. The only thing we understand is Ormiston’s conclusion: “The ballot actually doesn’t give an option to stay in Ukraine.”

But Ormiston’s conclusion is incorrect, given that the second question clearly asks whether voters support “the restoration of the 1992 Crimean constitution and the status of Crimea as part of Ukraine?”

What’s needed, but missing, is an explanation of the 1992 Crimean constitution. After the U.S.S.R. broke up in 1991, the Crimean parliament voted on May 5, 1992 to pass its first constitution declaring Crimea independent. The next day, on May 6, 1992, the Crimean parliament amended this new constitution by inserting a sentence declaring that Crimea was part of Ukraine.

On May 13, 1992 the Ukrainian parliament annulled Crimea’s declaration of independence. One month later, in June 1992, the Ukrainian and Crimean governments negotiated a compromise whereby Crimea was given the status of “Autonomous Republic of Crimea” with its own parliament and president, as well as more powers than the other 24 oblasts (provinces) of Ukraine.

In subsequent years, there was jockeying between the Crimean and Ukrainian governments over what powers Crimea should be able to exercise under its 1992 constitution, resulting in the Ukrainian parliament under President Leonid Kuchma abolishing the May 1992 constitution on March 17, 1995, together with the post of president of Crimea.

In October 1995, the Crimean parliament adopted a new constitution, but the Ukrainian government did not recognize it until April 1996 when substantial amendments were made to it.

In October 1998, the Crimean parliament ratified the fifth draft of the October 1995 constitution and two months later, the Ukrainian parliament also confirmed that version of the Crimean constitution. [Article 135 of the Ukrainian constitution specifies that the Crimean constitution must be approved by the Ukrainian parliament.]

Now with its second question on the referendum ballot of March 16, 2014, the Crimean referendum committee was giving Crimean voters the option of whether they wished to remain part of Ukraine but with the greater autonomous powers they had as part of their 1992 constitution, as opposed to the 1995 version of the constitution ratified in 1998.

The upshot of this history lesson is that contrary to what CBC reported today, Crimean voters were given a choice on their referendum ballot as to whether they preferred to remain part of Ukraine. The results clearly indicate that they do not.

[See teaser below]

Published: MARCH 2014
The real view from inside Crimea: Let my people go…back to Russia

Writing from Halifax, Nova Scotia

Western politicians, such as President Barack Obama, say Russia is on the wrong side of history in its support of the Crimean people deciding through a referendum whether they wish to separate from the Ukraine and rejoin Russia, their ancestral homeland. But those living inside Crimea tell a different story, demanding that the Ukraine and the world respect their wishes as expressed in the referendum of March 16, 2014. Now a Soviet-born citizen from Crimea with both Ukrainian and Russian bloodlines and a Canadian passport shares his unique historical, political, social and religious insights into the Ukrainian crisis.