Bermudan independence referendum, 1995
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The Bermudan independence referendum of 1995 was a referendum held in Bermuda on 16 August 1995 over whether Bermuda should become an independent sovereign state or remain a British Dependent Territory. On a voter turnout of 58.8%, 73.6% voted against independence, and 25.7% voted in favour. Following the decisive referendum result, Sir John Swan, in favour of independence, resigned as Premier of Bermuda.
Referendum background and details
Bermuda was made a crown colony in 1609 and became a self-governing colony in 1620, with the founding of the Parliament of Bermuda. Following the Second World War, much of the British Empire was granted independence. In 1968, Bermuda gained a constitution, but the British Government determined that Bermuda was not ready for independence, and so Bermuda was included on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. In 1981, Bermuda became a British Dependent Territory as a result of the British Nationality Act 1981.
On 25 March 1995, the House of Assembly of Bermuda narrowly passed the Independence Referendum Bill 20-18, the Senate passed the Bill unopposed two weeks later. For independence to be approved, the yes vote had to be supported by at least 40% of those eligible to vote and over 50% of those who voted.
The referendum question (as set out by the Independence Referendum Act 1995) was this:
Are you in favour of independence for Bermuda?
Although in favour of independence, the opposition Progressive Labour Party, led by Frederick Wade, voted against the Referendum Bill, called for a boycott of the referendum itself and stated that independence should be determined in a general election. The governing United Bermuda Party was split on the issue, with Premier Sir John Swan supporting independence while many of his backbenchers were opposed.
During the campaign, the Committee for the Independence of Bermuda stated that if there was a 'yes' vote, independence would not come immediately. Instead, there would be a constitutional conference in London, which would lead to Bermuda becoming an independent Commonwealth Realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State and the Privy Council remaining the supreme court.
The vote was originally scheduled for 15 August 1995 but was delayed to the nexy day by Hurricane Felix passing over the islands. Polls were open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The decision to delay the referendum was the subject of a public inquiry, which found the Government had acted in accordance with the law.
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