The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), has asked Ghanaians to vote against the proposed amendment of Article 55 (3) of the 1992 Constitution, which will make local government elections partisan, saying it is against ex-President Jerry John Rawlings’ principle on local governance which coincidentally President Akufo-Addo, has pledge to uphold.
According to the NDC, Mr Rawlings, has been against partisan politics at local government level, and this is in sharp contrast to the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) position, which is canvassing for ‘Yes’ votes.
The opposition party, is of the view that the country is already heavily polarized along partisan lines and nothing should be done to further destroy the little unity prevailing at the local level.
The President recently declared that, one of the greatest legacies former President J.J. Rawlings left the country, is the district assembly concept, which must be protected and sustained.
The President, who was speaking at the 30th Anniversary celebration of the creation of the Akatsi South District at the capital Akatsi, said he would uphold and deepen local governance by ensuring that elections at the local government level, has been made partisan.
Nana Akufo-Addo, noted that the time had come to move away from the so-called non-partisan nature of elections in local government administration, adding it is common knowledge that even though elections at the local government level are non-partisan, political parties, still secretly support candidates.
But at a press conference yesterday, Chairman of the NDC, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, said the local government system should remain non-partisan and that individuals should contest the District Assembly and Unit Committee elections on their own merit.
“We, therefore, decided to campaign for a NO vote at the referendum and to urge all Ghanaians to vote NO at the referendum.
Article 55 (3) states that “subject to the provisions of this article, a political party is free to participate in shaping the political will of the people, to disseminate information on political ideas, social and economic programmes of a national character and sponsor candidates for elections to any public office other than to District Assemblies or lower local government units.’’
The referendum has become necessary because Article 55 is an entrenched provision of the Constitution and therefore can only be amended through a referendum. Voting for the proposed amendment has been scheduled for December 17, but the NDC is against it.
“The consequence of exporting this polarization into the District Assemblies is that very soon in our villages, there will be “NDC Communal Labour day” and “NPP Communal Labour day”. There will also be “NDC market” and “NPP market” And so on and so forth,” Mr Ofosu Ampofo stated.
Amending Article 55, in the NDC’s view, will result in many consequential matters and pitfalls which it says government is yet to consider.
It is for this reason, they believe that the proposed amendment should have been subjected to intense public discussion, as it required for holding referenda on any provision of the Constitution.
“Without the needed clarity, confusion would arise out of the referendum. This is the problem Great Britain has had to grapple with since the Brexit referendum.”
The party at the same presser, accused President Akufo-Addo of misleading Ghanaians by saying the December 17 referendum is to elect Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs).
Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, said the President played on the emotions of Ghanaians, when he said the referendum would elect MMDCEs.
“Government was deliberately misleading people into believing that the referendum is to elect MMDCEs, knowing that the election of MMDCEs is the peoples’ preference.
“No less a personality than President Akufo-Addo himself, made this false claim last week. In fact, the NCCE [National Commission on Civic Education] should have called out the President for peddling misinformation and untruths,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo, speaking at the 30th anniversary celebration of the Akatsi District Assembly, on Monday, November 4, 2019, at the commencement of his 2-day tour of the Volta Region, indicated that the District Assembly Concept, introduced some 31 years ago, under the Rawlings era, is one of the most important contributions to the improvement of Ghana’s national governance.
According to President Akufo-Addo, the District Assembly concept “has led to the enhancement of participatory involvement of our people in their local government. Now, it is time to deepen the process that began 31 years ago, and entrust to the people full sovereignty over the election of the MMDCEs and members of the District Assemblies”.
Government, has already presented the amendment of Article 243 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, which requires the President to appoint MMDCEs to Parliament.
The NDC, says it supports the election of MMDCEs, but it does not support the proposed referendum to make the process partisan.
“Government may, therefore, place a Bill before Parliament setting out the modalities for the election for consideration. This is the primary interest of Ghanaians. The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2018, has many ramifications for the smooth, effective and harmonious administration of the Metropolitan and District Assemblies.
“It has to be thought through very well. Unfortunately, the bill as it is now is fatally flawed and cannot form the basis for the referendum to amend Article 55 (3). It must be withdrawn.
But if the government insists on making the Assemblies partisan, then a new bill must be drafted, re-gazetted and subjected to serious scrutiny by Ghanaians, unlike the surreptitious manner it has gone about the current Bill.
It will also mean that the 6-month period required by the Constitution for the Bill to be gazette will begin to run anew,” Mr Ampofo stated.
Like the NDC, the NCCE, has indicated that the national referendum scheduled for December 17, is to allow citizens vote for the amendment of the constitutional provision, which currently prevents political parties from participating in District Level Elections (DLEs).
This is to clarify misinformation in sections of the media suggesting the referendum is for citizens to elect MMDCEs.
“The Commission wishes to clarify that the 2019 National Referendum is to enable citizens to vote on the proposed amendment of Article 55 (3) of the 1992 Constitution that currently bars political parties from participating in District Level Elections (DLEs).”
“The proposed amendment is to introduce multi-party participation in the Local Government system in Ghana,” a statement from the NCCE clarified.
According to the NCCE, this provision as entrenched in the constitution can only be amended if 40percent of persons eligible to vote show up and 75percent of the voters vote ‘YES’ in favour of the amendment.
A successful amendment of Article 55 (3), will make room for political parties to sponsor candidates for District Assemblies of Lower Local Government units.