The governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) is pushing for a Yes vote in the 17 December 2019 referendum meant to determine whether political parties should be allowed to sponsor candidates in local elections.
“A YES vote will strengthen our multi-party democracy consistent with our constitution”, the party’s General Secretary John Boadu said at a press conference on Monday, 18 November 2019, adding: “A YES vote will strengthen our system of decentralisation by proving a coordinated and an organised political system. A YES vote, ladies and gentlemen, will provide a greater opportunity for citizens of voting-age to participate in political activities intended to influence policies at the local government level. A YES vote will meet the constitutional mandate imposed on political parties to freely participate in shaping the political will of the people, especially at the local level.”
The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), however, is rallying the citizens to vote No.
At a press conference on Tuesday, 12 November 2019, the National Chairman of the party, Mr Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, said: “At the meeting held last Thursday, the NEC of the NDC affirmed our long-held position that MMDCEs should be elected. We, however, took the view that the local government system should remain non-partisan and that individuals 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”, he announced.
According to him, “It is our well-considered view, and, indeed, that of well-meaning Ghanaians, that the needless NDC-NPP polarisation at the national level should not be extended into the District Assemblies and Unit Committees, which is what will happen if we vote to make the local government system partisan”.
The party added: “The consequence of exporting this polarisation 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. We, of the NDC, believe that all our towns and villages should have one Communal Labour Day, and one market and we can only achieve this by voting NO”.
Meanwhile, the President of the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin II has endorsed a ‘yes’ vote for the amendment of article 55 (3) to allow political parties to sponsor candidates in local elections.
A statement issued on Monday, 18 November 2019 by the Secretary to the Akyem Abuakwa state, Mr M. Ofori Atta, said the Paramount Chief of Okyeman “wishes to express his support for the amendment of article 55(3) of the Constitution, which will provide the choice for Ghanaians to contest for local government office on either partisan or non-partisan platforms”.
“The Osagyefuo welcomes the amendment with the understanding that it limits the executive authority of the President and, thus, provide the needed space for greater citizen participation in governance”, the statement explained.
The Okyenhene’s endorsement comes a few days after the National House of Chiefs rejected the proposal through a statement and urged Ghanaians to vote against it.
In a statement signed by its President, Togbe Afede XIV, the House said: “The efficacy and utility of introducing partisan politics into the local government is questionable. The development implications of such reforms are by no means self-evident”, the National House of Chiefs said in a statement, adding: “The framers of the 1992 Constitution had good reasons for protecting our local government system from partisan politics, and the rationale for the new reforms has not sufficiently addressed the grounds for the exclusion”.
The chiefs said: “All the partisanship that resulted from the presidential appointment of the chief executives would be worsened with the amendment of Article 55(3) because the amendment itself is designed to introduce partisan politics into the election after the removal of the President’s power of appointment of the chief executives of the assemblies”.
“The House, based on the recommendation of its Legal Committee, strongly object to the proposal that membership of local assemblies should exclusively comprise representatives of political parties as in the case of Parliament. We are, therefore, advocating the outright rejection of the proposal to amend Article 55(3) of the Constitution”.
Following the release of that statement, the Chairman of the Governance Committee of the House, Ogyeahoho Yaw Gyebi II of Sefwi Anhwiaso, Western Region, claimed in an interview that: “I am not aware of any consultation or meeting” over the matter, adding: “This matter should have been referred to the Governance Committee of which I am the Chairman but it hasn’t been referred to me”.
“If it came to the Governing Council, it would have been discussed at the Planning Committee, but this hasn’t happened, so, I don’t know who and who came out with this statement on behalf of all the paramount chiefs in the country, especially when two major political parties have taken a different stance”, he told Accra-based Citi FM.
Subsequent to Ogyeahoho’s comments, the Okyenhene also issued a statement in which he said the leadership of the various Regional Houses of Chiefs were neither “informed” nor “consulted” about the National House of Chiefs’ decision to issue a statement rejecting the proposal of making local level elections partisan.
In that statement, the Okyenhene said: “The Standing Committee of the National House of Chiefs has no record of deliberations on the matter”, adding: “The Committee of the Whole House has not been informed or met on the matter in question”.
The public, he said: “Should expect from Nananom in the coming days, a communiqué on this critical national issue in line with established consultative processes”.
The National House of Chiefs, in a counter-statement, signed by the President, Togbe Afede XIV, and his Vice-President, Daasebre Nana Kwebu Ewusi VII, said: “Any suggestions that the proposed referendum to allow partisan politics in local elections was not discussed by the House is not only dishonest but wanton mischief”.
Read below the Okyenhene’s latest statement on the matter:
OKYENHENE ENDORSES THE YES VOTE FOR THE DECEMBER 17TH REFERENDUM
18TH NOVEMBER, 2019
The Okyenhene and President of the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs wishes to express his support for the amendment of article 55(3) of the Constitution which will provide the choice for Ghanaians to contest for local government office on either partisan or non-partisan platforms.
The Osagyefuo welcomes the amendment with the understanding that it limits the executive authority of the President and, thus, provide the needed space for greater citizen participation in governance.
Political parties are established and recognised public platforms that shape, plan and evolve strategies and ideas for socio-economic development, and cannot be excluded in the crucial area of local government.
Political party participation in local government politics is practised all over the world; Ghana cannot remain an exception.
Under the current system, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) are appointed by a partisan President, who, also by unchecked discretion, chooses a third of the membership of the Assembly.
Most MMDCEs are rejected partisan politicians at the polls (defeated parliamentary candidates) who later by intrigues and back door tactics of central government impose themselves on the people.
A clear example can be sighted in the fact that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) was rejected in the Volta Region in 2016, however it places its defeated parliamentary candidates as Municipal and District Chief Executives by means of the appointing authority of the President to supervise social and economic programmes which does not meet the approval of the people and their communities.
In the same way, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) appointed a thrice-rejected parliamentary candidate, the late Simon Asirifi as the East Akyem Municipal Chief Executive. The story never ended well.
This situation is unacceptable and incompatible with the objectives of inclusive and transparent local government system; a key factor to the furtherance of the goal of national development and progress.
The Okyenhene, however, wishes to state that the amendment of Article 55(3) is not far-reaching. There will be the need for broader legal and administrative reforms to ensure the financial independence of local governments, particularly with regard to the administration of the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF).
The current situation where contracts and projects are concluded in Accra and funded through the DACF without the consent of the local authorities poses the gravest challenge to the decentralisation programme.
The Okyenhene, however, wishes to commend the government for the bold initiative to amend Article 55(3) of the Constitution as a positive step in the uphill task of total decentralisation.
It is Osagyefuo’s stance that calls from certain quarters urging the good people of Ghana to vote against the amendment of the Constitution should be ignored. It is not founded on a well-considered understanding of the greater national interest.
M. OFORI ATTA
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