Breaking up is hard to do: The Neil Sedaka theory of independence referendums

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This article analyses the factors conducive to recognising independence referendums and to winning these votes. After a tour d’horizon of the history of referendums on independence and a summary of the legal position, this article argues that independence referendums are most likely to be implemented when this is in the interest of the three Western powers on the UN Security Council. While there is a statistically significant correlation between the support for independence (the yes-vote) and international recognition, this is much lower than the 100% association between support of the three permanent Western powers on the Security Council and international recognition. Countries may cite legal, democratic and philosophical principles, but the statistical and historical facts suggest that these are of secondary importance when it comes to recognising states after independence referendums.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)638-651
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Political Science Review
Issue number5
Early online date22 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020

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  • Referendums
  • independence
  • international law
  • nationalism
  • realism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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