President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has cancelled the much talked about referendum which was supposed be held on December 17, 2019.
In his address to the nation on Sunday, December 1, 2019, the President stated that his government will work to attain a broad national consensus on the referendum because it is as important as the amendment of an entrenched provision of the Constitution, is critical.
He said, “I do not believe that such an amendment should be driven as a party matter. There has to be a clear national consensus and agreement amongst the populace that a particular entrenched provision no longer serves the interest of the people, and, thus, has to be removed.”
He continued, “In this case, it had been long apparent that political parties were, in fact, actively involved in district assembly elections, despite their apparently non-partisan nature. The time had come to strip the process of its hypocrisy, and accept and work with the reality of party involvement.”
President Akufo-Addo explained that on Tuesday 18th April 2017, a little over 4 months into my mandate he held a meeting with my three predecessors; their Excellencies Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor and John Dramani Mahama to seek their views and counsel on these issues.
“I came away from that meeting with a view that there was a consensus amongst us that the time has come for political parties to participate openly in district assembly elections and local governance. Indeed, amongst the leadership of Parliament and amongst Members of Parliament on both sides, and amongst, virtually, all stakeholders who had been consulted either by him, or by the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, the clear indications were that there was a broad national consensus for the repeal of article 55(3). It is on this basis that I proceeded in subsequently instructing the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development to initiate a parliamentary process for the repeal of Article 55(3) of the Constitution,” he noted in his address to the nation.
About the referendum
The referendum was to determine whether Article 55(3) of the 1992 Constitution should be amended for political parties to sponsor candidates for local level elections.
The outcome of the referendum will have either of the following outcomes: If the electorate votes YES, the election of MMDCEs, Assembly and Unit Committee Members will be on a partisan basis.
If they vote NO, then the election of theMMDCEs, Assembly and Unit Committee Members will be on a non-partisan basis, as being practised now.
Arguments surrounding Referendum
The referendum has sharply divided the country with the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference calling for a postponement.
Vice-President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC), Most Rev. Charles Palmer-Buckle, has said given the current poisoned political environment there was a need to postpone the December 17 referendum.
“We the Bishops are appealing to the Government and the Electoral Commission to postpone the Referendum since it would not cause any Constitutional crisis,” Archbishop Palmer-Buckle said at the Jubilee House recently.
Traditional leaders, on the other hand, are also divided on the referendum after the Chairman of the Governance Committee of the National House of Chiefs; Ogyeahoho Yaw Gyebi II disclosed that the posture of the House for a NO vote did not represent the concerted views of the chiefs.