The legislature gets an opportunity to get the pulse of the nation for an important legislation proposed or passed through the referendum. The dictionary definition goes like this: A general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to them for a direct decision. There were two significant referendums in the last fortnight.
One was on the self rule for Kurds in the North-Western part of the Iraq, and the other, in the Catalan region of the Spain. The Kurds, who are fighting for a homeland in Iraq, went in for a referendum on September 25, and the results are overwhelmingly (92 per cent) for a separate State.
The Kurds struggle for a homeland, generally known as ‘Kurdistan’, is over 100 years old. They have been asking for a homeland from the time of the Ottoman empire and by the victorious allies after the First World War, through the Treaty of Sevres, in 1920.
When the Ottoman Empire was completely demolished, their plea for a homeland was set aside in the Treaty of Lusanne (1923) and the people were distributed in four countries --Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.
Their number today is estimated to be between 30 to 40 million. A majority of them are living in Turkey, followed by Iran, Iraq and Syria. The 2005 Constitution of Iraq granted autonomous status to them in the three provinces where they are a majority.
It is the Kurds who fought against the Islamic State in Syria and particularly when the Iraq army was withdrawing from Mosul, it is the Kurds whose military force, known as Peshmerga, stopped them from taking over Mosul and started the offensive against them. The results of this referendum will have its effect on the Kurds living in Turkey and Iran.
At the end of the Franco’s dictatorship, which spanned from 1930 to 1975, with the revival of monarchy, the constitution of Spain was drafted and it was adopted by the Spanish Parliament and the Spanish people in a referendum accepted it (91.8 per cent) on December 6, 1978. Catalonia is one of the seventeen autonomous communities (and two autonomous cities) of Spain and one of its provinces Barcelona, is well-known for its Football team, FC Barcelona. Catalans went for a referendum on October 1, for Independence. Spain and its Constitutional court declared such referendums illegal.
Spain began to stop the referendum by sending its forces to Catalan. In spite of the ban on referendum Catalans voted in large numbers for an independent Catalonia. If Catalonia is allowed to leave Spain, there are others, particularly the Basque country, who also want to leave.
Section 2 of the Spanish Constitution has spelt out clearly that ‘the Constitution (of Spain) is based on indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of the Spaniards.’
Kurds, Catalonia and many others, through a referendum have expressed their desire for a new nation. How are the nation-states going to handle such demands for a separate state? The writing on the wall is clear— when the devolution of powers are limited and the state autonomy is restricted, the demand for leaving the union increase. One is reminded of French historian, Ernest Renan (1823–1892), who said, “The nation is a daily referendum.”
The writer is a political analyst