## Monday, May 12, 2014

### Donetsk, Luhansk referendums have firmer democratic foundations than any EU-wide polls so far

As recently as yesterday, I was unsure whether the referendums in the Donetsk Region and the Luhansk Region would end up as the same landslide vote against the new Kiev regime as the referendum in Crimea. The ethnic Russians are stronger in Crimea, and so on. However, yesterday, I realized that the question was different in Donetsk and Luhansk. The voters were asked
Do you support the Act of State Self-rule of the Donetsk/Luhansk People's Republic?
Note that there has been no vote on the annexation by Russia yet; the grassroots or the new local politicians may be preparing the referendum on the annexation for the following weekend and I am really uncertain about the results. The support for annexation could be significantly weaker. The desire for genuine independence could be strong. On the other hand, the emerging republic(s) will probably need some military support to resist the attempts of the current Kiev regime to occupy them – the Kiev troops and tanks are being declared occupation forces today – so they may be forced to seek some close relationships with Russia whether they want it or not. Well, let me repeat: I honestly can't predict the results of the next referendum.

The people's desire to submit ballots in the referendum that took place yesterday was staggering, about 75%. See e.g. these long queues in front of the polling stations. Everyone knew that some lunatics from Kiev may begin fire against civilians, like in Krasnoarmejsk, but they went to vote, anyway. In fact, the fear of the bullets from Kiev has probably encouraged people to vote and to vote for independence from Kiev. I would probably be pushed in that direction, too, regardless of the detailed nationalist colors of the regime that would be pointing guns and tanks to civilians like me.

About 90% were in support of the independence of the Donetsk Region; 10% were against. The Luhansk Region data will be published later. They may be a bit less convincing but I do expect the independence to gain the support of a majority, too.

Why do I expect the support in Luhansk to be weaker? It's simple. Because the Donetsk Region GDP per capita is nearly $5,000 while it is just slightly above$3,000 in the Luhansk Region. The Donetsk Region is clearly one of the true engines of the Ukrainian economy and they're losing lots of money by the redistribution in Kiev. Mostly dirty and not so hard-working people in Kiev and the Western Ukraine may become good at creating mess in the streets, breaking into various government buildings, and impressing millions of idiots in the West by their low-level instinctive hatred against Russia but otherwise they are not too good at many other things.

Update: Unless the results are seriously skewed, I was wrong: the Luhansk Region support is said to be 96%, even higher than in the Donetsk Region.

It's clear that a Donetsk Region without this redistribution would be better off. The region is full of coal mines and steel industry. These enterprises were already started by a Welsh businessman, John Hughes, in 1869 (the year when the 2nd Gambrinus brewery was founded in Pilsen LOL) which gives their industrial activity quite some Western flavor. However, the steel companies were significantly expanded in the Soviet times.

The support of the independence from Kiev is therefore a matter of common sense and it goes beyond the ethnicity of the citizens.

The European men (and women) are no longer allowed to meet Natalia Poklonskaya, the Crimean top procurator. Her fans on the Old Continent became the latest victims of the newest, today's sanctions imposed by 28 pro-fascist villains and jealous boner shrinkers, the so-called EU foreign ministers. I will use all legal means to spank these 28 bastards.

The BBC refers to the typical citizens of the Donetsk Region, these mostly conservative, law-abiding, and hard-working folks who have trouble with coups and similar things, e.g. with the "revolution" in Kiev, as to the "rebels". Most of the Western press is choosing similar ludicrous and ludicrously negative labels while the Maidan regime still claims to continue with an "anti-terrorist" operation. It's just so crazy that the readers who take these labels seriously should be declared brain-dead.

Three million eligible, elegantly dressed voters that are powering much of the Ukrainian economy were asked whether they like to be governed by a regime appointed by angry mobs on the street, a regime that treats the bulk of the citizens of the region as terrorists just because they consider the algorithm by which the Maidan regime got to power illegitimate – and they don't like most of its plans, either. 90% of them answered No. What a surprise. If someone in Ukraine is "definitely not a rebel" and "definitely not a terrorist", it's the typical voters of the Donetsk Region in the lines on a video above.
Related: Actor Martin Stropnický, a mildly anti-Russian guy who is the current defense minister for the billionaire Andrej Babiš' ANO party, doesn't plan to allow any (NATO) foreign troops on our territory. He also suggests that we won't bring our current 1% of GDP for defense to NATO's expected 2% anytime soon.
Putin has tried to convince the local people to postpone the referendum so that there may be a dialogue before it. They didn't listen to him. They are independent of the Kremlin, a fact that may cause some pain in the neck of Vladimir Putin himself. But who are you, Mr Putin, the EU, and the U.S. if you wanted to question the message of this referendum with such a shockingly high turnout and an incredibly clear result?

At the confederative level of the EU, we have never had such a high turnout. In fact, turnouts around 25% have been the norm in the Czech elections to the EU Parliament. It's not surprising that people are not terribly interested in this "EU democracy". There is none worth mentioning. There is no single "demos" in the EU. And even if you created a demos, the EU Parliament can't even author EU laws. It's just a collection of deputies that are paid to sit in a building and pretend that the EU is a democracy which it's clearly not. When it comes to the comparisons of democracy at the levels of the EU and the Donetsk Region, the Soviet-like officials in the EU should – if you allow me to borrow the words from Jacques Chirac – use the great opportunity to shut up.

Unless there are serious reasons to think that the result was rigged, and I guess that it is an extremely unlikely conspiracy theory at this point, all decent people in the world who have at least some respect towards democracy must take the result of this referendum into account. It seems obvious to me that the Donetsk Region – and we will have to wait for the Luhansk Region results – won't remain a part of Ukraine. It's deeply immoral to push 3-10 million people to remain targets of tanks and intimidation by a regime they don't like. To a large extent, this outcome holds independently of the current de facto government in Kiev. Even with a different government that would be less unfriendly towards the people of the Donetsk Region, a majority of the Donetsk Region citizens would probably favor independence because the risk of unfriendly interference and the economic matters would still be too important. The support for the independence is just way to high for any interpretation of it as an artifact of one or another temporary circumstance.

So congratulations to the supporters of the independence of the Donetsk Region (and perhaps other regions later).

Off-topic but political: Prof Ruth Wisse of Harvard (whom I know as a soulmate from the feminist witch hunts after the January 2005 Larry Summers speech) wrote a nice but sad essay in the Wall Street Journal arguing that the universities have become a key player that suppresses the freedom of speech, intellectual diversity, and simply the truth in the West. Hat tip: Fred Singer

1. Finnish foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja gives very little credibility for the East-Ukrainian elections (Guns, BAllot box, No stamps on the voting paper, etc. etc.).http://yle.fi/uutiset/tuomioja_ita-ukrainan_vaaleilla_ei_uskottavuutta/7234443

An look! Erkki has a peace sign in the picture! Erkki is also former hippie from 60s and his great grandmother was a prominent commie and a friend of Lenin. I rest my case: No Russophobia here.

2. Unless there are serious reasons to think that the result was rigged, and I guess that it is an extremely unlikely conspiracy theory at this point, all decent people in the world who have at least some respect towards democracy must take the result of this referendum into account.
That depends what "rigged" refers to. If there is a yes/no vote and suppose I think "no" and want to say so.
But then I observe that :
- there are armed men in front of the voting room as well as inside with badges saying "vote eys"
- the voting device is transparent and no envelopes are provided so that everybody sees who votes what
- my name and identity papers are written on a register (with possibly the information about what I voted)
- I know that my neighbour will vote yes and he looks at me with suspicion. He's a friend of the armed men.
- I still remember (it is not so far) what would happen under communism if somebody wanted to vote what was not wished by neighbours and friends of armed men.
and then I come to the only possible conclusion which is that I will not go vote.
This is not science fiction - this is what decided all people observing the same thing what the hypothetical "me" did.
That's why I can predict that the result has a ptential to challenge Stalin's results - with a "yes" above 90 % (I believe that 99% would be feasible too but we live no more in Stalin's times). And as far as arithmetics go, it will not be significantly "rigged".
How many people stayed home or fled to the West ?
I suspect we will never know and I have no trust in armed men and suspicious neighbours to tell me even if they knew what they don't.
Despite all that, it is still probable that a relative majority (which is far from the 90% which will be "communicated") would favor some kind of independence or even (for what might no more be a majority) an Anschluss to Russia.
And I still believe that, to the contrary to Crimea, Russia has no interest to get directly involved in this particular wasps' nest.
That's why I expect a kind of phoney war which will benefit to nobody living there.
One one side we'll have armed men pretending they are in control but not having the adequate power and on another side other armed men who have the adequate power but do not dare to use it.
Caught in the middle the civilians like me who dislike the armed men of both sides because one may become a collateral victim pretty fast and who, I am pretty sure, didn't wish for all that mess.

3. Are these claims based in fact. Do you have a reference or source to back it up?

4. Even elections in Russia in 2011 were considered rigged by foreign observers, with 140% turnout in some places. Recent refererendum in Crimea was also rigged according to some russian coorganizers. I have absolutely no reason to believe the numbers that current separatist are announcing.

5. It is true that the voters couldn't hide when ticking the box. I saw it on a report yesterday. That's not good. However, I consider this referendum process better than killing people. It is an "in-between" situation that cannot be perfect in a chaotic country anyway.
The EU has no lesson to give them either since they have been ignoring the No vote for the European construction in many countries.

6. Mr Lubos. Czechs have always been wonderful comedians, and you are a great representative of this national trait:

7. Yes with the exception of the 4th point. I do not live in a place where my neighbor would be voting yes or no. But if I lived in Donetsk, I would certainly have (at least) one such.

8. There is no reason to doubt the legitimacy of the votes in either the eastern Ukraine or the Crimea. They merely replicate what happened in the previous national elections.

What is clear is the the EU and US are sham democracies ruled by illegitimate elites.

9. While the only true democracy is Russia with thousands statues of Lenin and lead by a former KGB agent Putin.

10. I think Lubos is one of few Czechs buying russian propaganda.

11. Russian democracy is about the same as EU/US democracy. Deeply flawed. With unelected ruling class that cannot be removed or disempowered. Perhaps you've heard of Brussels or neocons.

12. I haven't seen many analysis of the Crimea referendum, perhaps because I haven't looked all that much, but recently I ran into one:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/05/06/russian-government-agency-reveals-fraudulent-nature-of-the-crimean-referendum-results/

13. To consider a referendum with the results as skewed as those in the Crimea legitimate requires complete suspension of critical thinking. Unless the Crimea plans to become a part of North Korea.

14. Thanks for the link. Yeah, if the analysis is right (and I am not in a position to effectively evaluate it), then about 97% of 15% of the people voted in favor of annexation. Still, you probably don't get more than 50% out to vote in the best of times, and I would assume that many of the people who could have voted would have voted for annexation -- why go to the trouble, and the danger, of voting, when the outcome is pretty much a sure thing. So, I would still think that the outcome represented the view of at least a majority. However, as I said below, this begs the question of who gets to vote in the first place -- what region, what county, what city, what neighborhood? Depending on the location and the historical circumstances a lot of mischief can be done just by drawing the lines a certain way. Maybe the circumstances in the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine were relatively clear, but that's not the case everywhere this type of tactic may be tried.

15. It is true that often 50% or less of the eligible voters bother to vote, but the additional problem in the Crimea was the potential for a strong bias in the selection or self-selection of those who got to cast ballots due to the intimidating atmosphere. I would also argue that the question of whether the Crimea might have voted to join Russia anyway in no way detracts from the fact that this referendum was a sham. Either one conducts a free and fair vote or one doesn't, and if one doesn't, one shouldn't be allowed to get away with using the results as a justification for one's actions.

As far as who and when should be allowed to contemplate secession, it will always remain a murky affair decided on a case-by-case basis. We certainly know how Russia decided about Chechnya - it just drowned the place in blood.

16. Well, you may be right from a "legal" standpoint, but I think that's "murky" as well and I'm willing to accept the argument being made by many that the vote probably does reflect the view of the most of those in the area voting.

In any event, I would say that whatever its basis, it is now a fiat accompli if there ever was one and that continuing to focus on these legal fine points (I know you won't like that characterization) distracts from the broader strategic question -- what next?

I'm afraid that the justifications being given by many so far to Russia's actions fail to consider the ramifications for peace and security of adopting a view that certain group's of people claiming appropriate standing (e.g. ethnically, culturally, linguistically and/or geographically) can be used to justify similar political moves elsewhere. As I pointed out, and as you agree, such things are always a murky affair and that combined with the military will to press the issue can (and has historically) contribute to miscalculation and widespread bloodshed. I would urge even those whose first (and in this case perhaps understandable) reaction was to offer wholehearted support to Russia, to at least consider these aspects of the overall situation.

17. Actually, I don't think of it as a legal issue, but more of a moral authority and public relations issue - I don't like rigged elections used to shore up either.

I am also very concerned with the security implications of Russia being on the move, given its history, its mentality, an increasingly repressive regime presently in power there, and the European defense capabilities being inappropriately low for a block of 500 million people.

18. As to the Crimea referendum, please take a look at the statistics of 7 polls taken between 2009 and 2011 in completely peaceful circumstances (Wikipedia):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimean_status_referendum,_2014

The percentage of those in favor of joining Russia was always between 65 and 70 %. Now add to that the violent Putsch-imposed government whose first move was to try to abolish Russian as an official language, glorify war criminals like Bandera, etc.

It is ridiculous even to argue about that.

19. No, it is not ridiculous to argue about that referendum. The point is not whether its results reflected the preference of a majority, which they most likely did, but whether it was a reasonably organized and conducted poll, which it most likely was not. Otherwise, why bother voting - a public opinion poll should be enough to secede.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_United_States_election_voting_controversies

In this case, even the final result could have been affected, whereas in the Crimea case the result is clear-cut.

21. By reasonably organized I am thinking of the referenda conducted in Quebec on its independence, or the referendum that will be conducted in Scotland on its independence, or the referendum in Puerto Rico on whether it wanted to become independent of the US.

In all those cases the voting was not (or will not be in case of Scotland) influenced by the clear presence of force, and it was not rushed.

And you picked the wrong election to complain about in the US, the insane one was in 2000, not in 2004.

22. Hi Luboš,

It is beyond my understanding why you have taken the anti-Ukraine side and why you are defending it so strongly and unconditionally.

I was born there, in Eastern Ukraine, and lived there until 2000. The current situation is complex and somewhat controversial - there are many forces involved. I don't know what information is shaping your opinion, but it seems to me you should consider a wider spectrum of sources.

Those referendums have nothing to do with the people's will. And the results have been pulled out of the air.

Donetsk is a criminal ghetto. Their godfather Yanukovich has lost power (but not money). They are fighting basically against the rule of law.

There is another category of people there: brainwashed armed fanatics who just want to physically suppress (hurt, kill) anyone who is thinking differently.

Regarding the Donbass coal, majority of mines are not profitable. Profits are being extracted from illegal mines with slave labor (kopanki http://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A8%D0%B0%D1%85%D1%82%D0%B0-%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BF%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%BA%D0%B0 )

23. That one too - many would be problematic by these standards. In Crimea, the referendum had to be rushed to avoid a bloodbath, much worse than the Odessa one.

The UN polls (above) showed that the majority of Crimeans were pro-Russian, which became even more pronounced after the Maidan violence. So there was no point in rigging the results. On the contrary, Putin was interested in smooth running of the referendum (the results could only be rigged in the wrong direction). Of course, one can't avoid glitches/human error/etc., but overall it was conducted very well under the circumstances.

24. Dear Oleg, off-topic. May I ask you for some brief feedback concerning the readability and faithfulness of this simplified LM transliteration of Russian?

http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/12796267/feynman-russian-lm-translit2.html

25. Hi Luboш :) Looks reasonable to me, just I'm not sure about "Ъ" -> "H" (e.g. in BЪЕЗД). Probably it's hard to come up with something better...

26. Hi Oleg, thanks for the feedback. "H" is unused for Russian transliteratation and it looks pretty hard to me, too.

VHĚZD is direct although I have no feelings why it is better than "VĚZD" or just the Czech "VJEZD".

What does the hard sign really change about the pronunciation? How would "BЪЕЗД" differ from "BЪЕЗД?

27. The hard sign makes B quite a bit harder, although VJEZD is not far off (much better than VĚZD).

28. Is there some recorded audio file of that? Even though I would be learning Russian at school for about 8 years in total, although not intensely most of the time, I still can't imagine how "B" in front of [the softening sound] "J" can possibly be "hard". What is your mouth doing differently? Is your mouth U-like sharp, like if you say "My"?

29. Did anybody hear the Kiev government say : "We will organize a referendum for all provinces that more than 100000 people ask for( for example) in parallel with the general elections?". I am sure if they had the situation would have deflated. The referenda of

30. The difference is subtle, but nonzero. In my case, my lower lip moves forward beyond my upper teeth (more forcefully compared to the soft sign case). There must be something on Youtube on that...

31. Thanks, it must be what I thought.

At any rate, I replaced an exception extra rule "hard sign soft-Ye" goes to "JE" in Latin. But I won't cancel the "H" in the case of "hard sign - Ya" and "hard sign – Yu" because Ja, Ju is the only way to rewrite the composite letters.

32. YES, let's vote almost immediately after an atmosphere of violent protest and ransacking hooliganism has been established! Because only then will dissenter feel free to come out and vote - right? Comepletely consonant with international standards. Yeah, right.

33. Leonard WeinsteinMay 13, 2014, 3:36:00 PM

Lubos,
I happen to agree that Russia feels like it is being pushed on, and needs friendly buffer states. I am anti-socialist and think the EU and even the US are heading the wrong way at present. However, they both have mechanisms for future self correction. Keep in mind that Ukraine was planning on a democratic election in the near future. However, do you understand that Russia did not treat the wishes of the majority of people of Chechnya for independence from them the same as the wishes of the portions of people of Georgia and parts of Ukraine to join them? Was the American civil war to keep the South part of the Union an unfair mistake? I would like your comments on these types of issues.

34. Dear Leonard, Ukraine has had democratic elections at least for over 20 years. It obviously isn't a sufficient condition for prosperity, happiness, and reasonable unity.

35. The fact that millions of people came to vote is enough to legitimize the separatists, despite controversy etc. The political equation in the region is now different, after this referendum.

36. If the prior elected regime in Ukraine hadn't tried to silence all protest, and making itself the regime for life, this situation would not have occurred. Strange that The Onion has got the best take, voters in Crimea vote for the last time.

37. The Onion? I give you something even better: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/11/russian-history-is-on-our-side-putin-will-surely-screw-himself.html

(Let's hope Luboš won't click on the link and read it: severe risk of inducing dyspepsia, ;) )