How can EU/USA consider Russian presidential elections legitimate if non-Russian citizens in Crimea will be able to take part in them?



There will be presidential elections in Russia in March 2018. EU and USA do not considered Crimea as part of Russia, however citizens of that region (around 2 million people) will take part in that vote. Does it mean that the EU and USA can't legally consider those elections legitimate?


Posted 2017-12-26T12:03:23.017


3You can always look at the results and then figure out whether the Crimean voters would have made a difference in the result. This is based on statistics and probability theory from mathematics. – jjack – 2017-12-26T12:13:42.307

1@jjack If it's only based on probability theory, it's hard to claim legitimacy (rather than "probable legitimacy"). However, it's extremely likely that Putin's winning margin will be more than the entire population of Crimea, in which case deleting all votes from Crimea couldn't possibly change the result. – David Richerby – 2017-12-26T22:41:36.490

@DavidRicherby I believe there are further progressions such as "very probable" or "highly probable" or the other end of the scale. – jjack – 2017-12-26T22:45:52.790

14Even without the Crimean factor, would they be regarded as legitimate? – Andrew Grimm – 2017-12-26T23:04:21.483

1I don't get how non-citizens can participate in elections. One has to both be registered as eligible to vote (i.e. as an adult citizen of Russian Federation) and provide a valid personal ID to vote, and afaik residents of Crimea are not exempt from these rules. – Danila Smirnov – 2017-12-27T04:32:50.237


What does it matter if the EU or USA considers Russian elections to be legitimate? And do they consider Russian Presidential elections to be legitimate even without this concern?

– reirab – 2017-12-27T05:23:20.513

8So astounding rate of vote falsification is no big deal, but adding in Crimean votes suddenly makes elections illegitimate? – user1643723 – 2017-12-27T07:00:35.483

@AndrewGrimm That wasn't the question though. – jjack – 2017-12-27T10:52:22.837

2I think the fact that Putin can disallow his opponent from running is enough for outsiders to consider them illegitimate. – Andy – 2017-12-27T21:01:32.293

1Please clarify what is meant by "legally". Which set of laws are you referring to? – James K – 2017-12-27T22:55:30.257

1Two things, what does the EU and the US have to do with Russian elections? Second, non-US citizens vote in the US all the time (the amount is debatable) so why shouldn't the rest of the world invalidate the US elections? (See first question to answer the second) – Matt – 2017-12-28T03:23:00.220



First of all, there's a difference between recognizing that Crimea is a Russian territory and recognizing that Crimean residents are Russian citizens. Taking up the Russian citizenship was voluntary and the EU or the US cannot dictate whether or not a given person can become a Russian citizen by choice. There are still hundreds of thousands of dual Ukrainian-Russian citizens in Crimea and thousands others who refused to become a Russian citizen in the first place. Likewise international organizations cannot object to countries giving out their citizenship to residents of a certain territory, like in the case of Austria giving out their passports to residents of South Tyrol.

Second, there are even countries where non-citizens are eligible to vote for Parliament. E.g. in the UK you can participate in the general election (or stand as a candidate) if:

To vote at the UK general election you must be registered to vote and:

  • be a British, Irish or qualifying Commonwealth citizen

And I haven't heard of anyone contesting the validity of British elections...

So to answer your question: no, Russian elections of any kind do not become illegitimate simply because Crimean residents can participate in them.


Posted 2017-12-26T12:03:23.017

Reputation: 36 466

19"And I haven't heard of anyone contesting the validity of British elections..." - Ahem. Everyone on "remain" side seems to be that "anyone" :) – user4012 – 2017-12-26T14:11:45.637

@JonathanReez For the Irish it's an advantage to be able to additionally vote in UK elections. For Crimean Ukrainians it is not so. So the comparison with UK elections and Irish citizens is inadequate. – jjack – 2017-12-26T14:12:13.413

5@jjack Crimeans can still vote in Ukrainian elections – JonathanReez – 2017-12-26T14:14:41.373

@JonathanReez Really, how is that organized? – jjack – 2017-12-26T14:15:25.013

4@jjack you travel to Ukraine and vote there. – JonathanReez – 2017-12-26T15:11:47.010

1@JonathanReez Seems like a serious obstacle for casting your vote. The situation in Northern Ireland seems to better fit the whole discussion than your comparison of the Republic and the UK. – jjack – 2017-12-26T17:31:55.073

2@jjack in any case not being able to vote in Ukrainian elections has nothing to do with Russian elections. – JonathanReez – 2017-12-26T17:32:43.687

Can you clarify your second point? Your quote doesn't show that non-citizens are eligible. While quite broad, and certainly the qualifications can be anything UK wants, it still says says you have to be a "qualifying citizen". – BruceWayne – 2017-12-26T20:43:33.143

@BruceWayne you have to be an Irish or a qualifying Commonwealth citizen. Qualifying means you are legally resident in the UK. But no such qualification is required from Irish citizens. – JonathanReez – 2017-12-26T20:55:31.833

8@user4012 Smiley noted but it's not remotely true that every remain voter believes the Brexit referendum was invalid. – David Richerby – 2017-12-26T22:48:50.530

@david - TRUE, but one tends to hear more from the more vocal factions, in most situations. Which shapes perceptions – user4012 – 2017-12-27T00:18:24.300

10@user4012 and that was not an election, it was a referendum – Tim – 2017-12-27T00:57:58.257

1@JonathanReez "you travel to Ukraine and vote there" -- Unless you're trying to make a point that you're accepting the annexation as legitimate, you may want to rephrase this. According to a lot of people, they're already in the Ukraine. – hvd – 2017-12-27T10:05:06.400

@hvd unlike politicians I am free to recognize the physical reality on the ground. Crimea is Russian... for now. – JonathanReez – 2017-12-27T10:07:00.743

4@JonathanReez The physical reality can be summed up as "ruled by Russia", which does not take any side on whether that rule is legitimate. That's different from "Russian", meaning "owned by Russia", which does take a side. – hvd – 2017-12-27T10:16:00.050

@hvd of you rule it you own it. Just don't be surprised if the original owner takes it back some day. – JonathanReez – 2017-12-27T10:20:00.467

The Brexit referendum is not "invalid", it's just not legally binding: ; given that no two UK referendums have been conducted under the same rules and there isn't a constitutionally recognized standard for them this makes sense.

– pjc50 – 2017-12-27T10:51:40.437


You are asking a loaded question because I can predict what the outcome is.

If Russia denies the Crimeans to vote, then the EU/USA will vilify Russia because it suppresses the opinion of the Crimeans and it shows that Russia is afraid of a vote which will show that the Crimeans do not want to be ruled by Russia.

If Russia allows the Crimeans to vote, then the EU/USA will vilify Russia because it shows that Russia still legitimates the brutal annexion of Crimea and (as you imply) that the presidential election is doubtful/invalid. No word over the opinion of Crimeans anymore.

Either way, the Russians are the bad boys.

Thorsten S.

Posted 2017-12-26T12:03:23.017

Reputation: 4 510

Technically there's option number 3: give back Crimea and carry on without further complains. – JonathanReez – 2018-02-13T17:23:28.853

4I believe the technical politology term is "Catch-22" :) – user4012 – 2017-12-26T17:14:16.557

1I think this is a good answer, except for the last sentence. After all, the Russians may still turn out to be the bad boys when weighing all the evidence. – jjack – 2017-12-26T20:46:03.710

8@DavidRicherby The facts are irrelevant, it is about the framing. How to represent a country, a person, an issue. If you are a candidate for a political seat, it is completely irrelevant that you stole candy as a small child. But your political opponent will tell everyone that you stole candy (!!!!) and from then on it's only a small step to murder and arson. But if you did not steal candy, you are a boring paragon of virtue without charisma. Small-minded. Insufferable i-dotter and t-crosser. Whatever the situation is, it is always presented against you. Heads I win, tails you lose. – Thorsten S. – 2017-12-26T23:11:50.920

1I rolled back the latest edit to this answer. Please note that this is a question&answer website. We expect answers to answer the question, nothing more and nothing less. The latest edit was adding a very long tangent which wasn't doing that. – Philipp – 2017-12-28T00:48:01.513

It's almost as if once you've done something bad, people will call you a bad person for it. – Shadur – 2017-12-28T18:49:47.433

@Shadur I think the point that is being made (and was more clear before the most recent edit stripped much of that context), is that it doesn't necessarily matter if Russia is being bad or not. It /will/ be framed as them being bad, even if the act in question is something done (and still defended by) the side accusing them of being bad. – Jack Of All Trades 234 – 2017-12-28T20:37:16.480


Short version: neither the US or the EU rule the world.

Long version: Legitimate is either an internal legal question, or an external political statement.

Internally, it only matters if there is also an internal mechanism for enforcing the law.

Externally, calling another government non-legitimate is part of the process of either putting pressure on that government or providing support to a competing authority. It gives the external government justification for it's actions.

I doubt any polity has laws requiring them to take specific actions when they declare another government non-legitimate or specific processes they are required to perform for all other governments to determine their legitimacy.

While not a lawyer, I think I would have heard of a law requiring the US to determine the legitimacy of every other nation on the planet.

Basically I believe they (US and EU) can "legally" recognize anyone that they want to as the legitimate government, practically this recognition is typically given to the forces in physical control of an area. Occasionally, they recognize someone else or no one for mostly internal political reasons. For example, the US recognized Taiwan as the sole, legitimate government of China... until recognizing the PRC was more valuable in the Cold War.


Posted 2017-12-26T12:03:23.017

Reputation: 1 980

Legitimate would be someone elected by democratic elections. But what makes elections democratic could be contestable. – jjack – 2017-12-27T10:57:14.033

2@jjack There are far more sources of legitimacy than democracy. – Anonymous Coward – 2017-12-27T16:57:00.207

@JoseAntonioDuraOlmos Can you name a few? – jjack – 2017-12-27T17:20:06.527


@jjack Legitimacy (political)

– Anonymous Coward – 2017-12-27T17:28:26.513

@JoseAntonioDuraOlmos Looks like some people still break their head about legitimacy. "To posit" means "to propose", and I don't go with the proposition. – jjack – 2017-12-27T17:45:40.593