The people of Great Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU) before thinking about the consequences of the decision, a former Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Professor Kwamena Ahwoi.
He warned Ghana not to move along that path with the move to elect Municipal, Metropolitan, District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) on partisan lines.
Prof Ahwoi proposed that a thorough assessment of the proposal should be done before any move to go for a referendum.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo wants the MMDCs elected on partisan lines.
“It was and continues to be my view that the repeal or modification of an entrenched clause of the Constitution should attract widespread support to make it acceptable and healthy for the body politic. We should further bear in mind the strong attachment of the Ghanaian people to multi-party democratic elections.
“On the average, the turn out for national elections in the 4th Republic has been 72%, one of the highest in the world, whilst the turn out for the allegedly non-partisan local government elections has always hovered around thirty percent (30%),” he said when he addressed the nation on the 30th anniversary of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, on Thursday April 29.
The president added, “I have said it before, and I will repeat it. I will continue to work for an extensive, national consensus on this issue, and should such a consensus be attained for the repeal of article 55(3) of the Constitution, and an agreement reached for political parties to participate in and sponsor candidates for election to district assemblies, at any point during my remaining tenure of office as President of the Republic, the matter will be brought back again to the front burner of our public discourse for the necessary action.
“I am hoping that, after completing the necessary consultations, I will, shortly, be in a position to announce a way forward on this important matter.”
Mr Akufo-Addo in 2019 ordered for the withdrawal of a Bill that was seeking to amend Article 243(1) of the Constitution which allows the President to appoint MMDCEs.
In a national address where he announced the cancellation of the December 17, 2019 referendum that was to decide on an amendment of Article 55 (3) of the Constitution to enable political parties to participate in local level elections, the President also put on hold plans that would also allow for the election of MMDCEs as he promised ahead of the 2016 elections.
“It is with deep regret that I have given instructions to the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development …to abort the process and see to the withdrawal of the Bills for the amendment of the Constitutions both in respect of Article 243 (1) and Article 55 (3).”
Whilst the President attributed the decision to cancel the referendum to the absence of “a durable national consensus” on the matter, he did not explain why the Bill to amend Article 243 (1) was also withdrawn despite the fact that it had seeming bipartisan backing.
Speaking on the New Day show on TV3 on Thursday June 2, he said “The National Democratic Congress, we have always been in favour of election of MMDCEs but not on partisan lines. Article 55 deals with making District Assemblies partisan. That one, you will require a referendum because it is an entrenched provision. So, we could have had a referendum on that without reference to election of DCEs.
“Election of DCEs is handled by Article 241, it is not an entrenched provision, all you need is two thirds of Members of Parliament to vote for DCEs to be elected. But we wanted that election to be conducted on nonpartisan lines because the assemblies themselves are nonpartisan.”
When his attention was drawn to the point that partisanship is already happening even though it has not been properly couched, he said “Yes it is happening but what is the effect? Our position, which the party adopted, was that and I hope we do not have the Brexit type of referendum. Because the people of Great Britain went and voted to leave the EU before they started thinking about the consequences and the implications. So our position was, let us agree on all the consequential matters.
“For example, The Constitution says that the president appoints 30 per cent of assembly members, it doesn’t create any problem now because the assemblies are nonpartisan. If you make the assemblies partisan and you don’t do anything about that provision, the president’s party will contest the elections, win a certain number of seats and then he will go and appoint 30 per cent of his own people. Will that be democratic?
“If we are going into partisan local government, we must agree to repeal that provision in the Constitution.
“Another exampled is, the assemblies are nonpartisan, the district assembly and unit committee elections are therefore free, nobody pays anything. If we make the assemblies partisan, are the political parties going to be responsible for the payment of deposits, campaign expenses? A party in government may very well be able to do that.
“Will a party in opposition very easily be able to do that? So that provision that says that al district assembly elections and unit committee elections are free, we must agree before we for a referendum whether when they are made partisan the state is going to continue sponsoring the assembly elections or the party will take responsibility, there will be a major consequences and implications of that decision which we have not addressed and we are asking the president and his party that let us agree before we go to the referendum.”