There have not been adequate and well-grounded reasons to repeal Article 55 (3) of the Constitution. The invitation of political parties to participate in grassroots elections is fundamentally and politically weak in principle. The desire to repeal the said Article must accompany with it concrete and irrefutable facts that support same.
There have not been proper and adequate assessment of the need to bar political parties’ participation in grassroots election, and partisan governance at the Assemblies. The solution to resolving any difficulty associated with the election of MMDCEs lies in understanding the grounds of the law which exclude the participation of political parties in grassroots elections.
If it is the singular aim of any government to allow its MMDCEs to be elected, it can be done effortlessly, without the need to embark on a referendum or repeal Article 55(3). Article 55(3) is targeted because political parties and their adherents have an exclusive craving to control elected MMDCEs to their advantage. But the election of MMDCEs will rather give the locals the authority to subject them (MMDCEs) to effective control.
The appointment of MMDCEs and any partisan governance system have the same characteristics: appointed MMDCEs represent central government, which in the case of Ghana is the President of the day. If MMDCEs are elected, they will not represent central government but they will be controlled by central government which is similar to appointing them. It is very clear the political parties supporting this agenda do not prefer the transfer of the power to the grassroots to demand accountability from the executives who lead them and their institutions.
Devolution of power does not require the use of political parties as a vehicle to execute the ideal of the constitution of Ghana. A repeal of Article 55(3) will not grant the locals an opportunity to subject persons in the service of local government including Chief Executives to effective control. Article 240 clause 2(d) states that “as far as practicable, persons in the service of local government shall be subject to the effective control of the local authorities”. The appointment of MMDCEs takes away the power from the local authorities to subject the executives at the grassroots to effective control. The use of a partisan system to elect MMDCEs will worsen this illegality and constitution breach.
The structure of the ideal district assembly system in Ghana (as outlined in the constitution) with apolitical form is fitting for community development which embraces the ideas and efforts of all persons without recourse to their political ideology and orientation. Such a system is development-centered that blocks any divisive behaviours and practice. It is equally suitable for developing political pluralism as it draws the energy, expertise, the efforts and commitment of people in a particular political administrative region who have interest in mobilizing resources – both human and material resources, for community development.
The persistent yearning to repeal Article 55(3) through a referendum does not provide satisfactory assurance to achieve the prescribed form of sub-national governance structure by the framers of the constitution. It does not equally address the obvious weaknesses of the system being proposed currently. The focus of the President and his party should be redirected at evaluating the core reasons for repealing Article 55(3) to allow political parties to participate in grassroots election. What are the real benefits to be achieved by the state in permitting political parties to participate in grassroots election? So far, the reasons advanced in support of a partisan system for the election of MMDCEs are not persuasive and demanding.
Political pluralism as a political philosophy is gaining momentum in many countries, and should be the political goal of the country and all political persons. It creates a synergy for development, and attracts different interests, convictions as well as creating diversity for countries and the workings of their institutions.
Article 243(1) should rather be repealed to allow the grassroots to elect the people they deem fit to lead them and their institutions. The MMDCEs of a government can be elected without a referendum to repeal Article 55(3). With this, the potential candidates must adhere strictly to the provisions of Article 248 clause (1) and (2). MMDCEs can still be elected without the support of political parties; they will still perform effectively if the local authorities have control over them.
The repeal of Article 55(3) should not just be a political goal to be achieved or sought forcefully such that the nuances of the constituents needed for development will be missed eventually. There should be thorough analysis of the provisions of the constitution that prohibit partisanship at the grassroots.
Until the question, which seems rhetorical, “Why repeal Article 55(3)”, is answered with well-researched and empirically-grounded facts, the call for a partisan system to elect MMDCEs should vehemently be rejected by development-oriented persons. It is politically-divisive, structurally-polarised and constitutionally-defective in achieving the objectives of Article 240 clause 2(d).
Emmanuel Kwabena Wucharey
Economics Tutor, Advocate and Religion Enthusiast.