1. Eritrea 1993 – After 30 years of war, the people of Eritrea in northeast Africa voted overwhelmingly for independence from Ethiopia – 99.8% voted yes in one of the most overwhelming free vote results ever!
2. South Sudan 2011 – Also in northeast Africa, after a brutal conflict in Sudan, including in Darfur, 98.8% of people in the southern region of the country voted for independence. However, South Sudan remains mired in civil war.
3. Iran 1979 – Following the fall of the hated Shah, the people of Iran voted in a referendum to establish a popular democracy with a religious overseeing body, which became the Islamic Republic, often seen now as more religious than democratic…
4. Singapore 1962 – Singapore had a referendum to discuss union with neighbouring Malaysia, with a number of options given for union. Two years later, the two countries returned to being separate countries, an option not given in 1962.
5. Brazil 2005 – a referendum was held on forbidding civilian gun ownership as the country’s firearms violence escalated. However, Brazilians rejected any new limitations.
6. Greece 2015 – Greece is a country with a long history of referendums right up to the 2015 referendum on the EU bailout. Others have included referendums on the abolition of its monarchy and the nature of military rule in the 1960s.
7. Iceland 1908 (and 1933) – Usually referendums concern major questions on government type and union/independence, but Iceland held a referendum on importing alcohol, which was successful, in 1908 and another which overturned it in 1933.
8. Portugal 2007 (and 1998) – similarly sometimes referendums can be for moral questions and Portugal has twice voted on whether to legalise abortion, with the law changing in 2007.
9. Canada 1995 – Canada holds referendums on national and provincial levels, the most famous of the latter being Québec in 1980 and 1995. Despite strong showings for independence, French-speaking Québec actually voted to remain in Canada and is used to show the “status quo” bias in referendums which means people often vote more conservatively than opinion polls predict. Another example of this might have been the 2014 Scottish referendum.
10. United Kingdom 1975, 2011, 2014 and 2016 – referendums are not a major feature of the UK political system, which prefers parliamentary sovereignty determined by general election voting. However, in addition to the Scotland-only referendum on independence in 2014, there have been votes to determine continued membership of the European Union (then EEC) in 1975 – result, yes – and whether to move to a proportional representation system in 2011 – result, no.
And there is another referendum in the UK at the moment – how will the UK vote in that?
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