A stalwart of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has cautioned the government against plunging the country into a stalemate at the local government level after a ‘Yes’ victory in the December 17 referendum.
Prof Kwamena Ahwoi, who heads a committee of experts that advises the NDC on the upcoming referendum, said Tuesday on Joy FM’s Top Story that a ‘Yes’ victory, which would enable political parties to take part in the election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) could create chaos.
“We have to avoid a Brexit situation. When we rush into a referendum, ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, then suddenly we are confronted with all these issues that we have not thought through,” he said on Top Story.
The Brexit situation that Prof Ahwoi is warning against refers to the UK referendum in June 2016 to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union (EU).
Although ‘Leave’ won by 52% to 48%, a March 2019 deadline (the original deadline) for Britain to exit the EU was been missed.
Several deadlines have also been missed because UK parliamentarians have failed to pass different Brexit deals with the EU into law – three years after British citizens voted to leave the EU.
Countering a government-backed ‘Yes’ campaign on Top Story, Mr Ahwoi said the NDC’s position is that the bill that will enable political party participation in the election of MMDCs should be withdrawn.
“Let us try to reach a consensus. Let us develop a national blueprint, not just on the amendment bill but also on all the consequential matters. If we don’t do that we will find ourselves in a Brexit situation in this country.”
He said the sheer number of MMDCEs – 7,000 of them – and their unit committees, each comprising five members (35,000 unit committee members) could create chaos when they start printing and hanging campaign posters.
But Local Government Minister, Alima Mahama, said the call by the NDC for withdrawal of the bill to amend Article 55 (3) and hence the referendum is untenable.
Speaking on Top Story, he said Prof Ahwoi’s suggestions are not founded in law.
“He should tell me the constitutional basis, the law that allows us to now go to the Electoral Commission (EC) that the referendum that has gone through all the processes…[should be withdrawn],” she said.
Photo: Hajia Alima Mahama
She also said on Top Story that contrary to the NDC’s claim that there is a deliberate attempt by the government to misinform voters that a ‘Yes’ vote means they can elect MMDCEs, the government made the roadmap clear when it announced the plans for the referendum.
“There is no mis-campaign or misinformation. The whole process of the referendum started with the discussion of election of MMDCEs. And the Ministry of Local Government prepared a roadmap on this matter and government took a decision that, we have to move towards election of MMDCEs on partisan basis and I shared the roadmap with everybody, I had two different media encounters, we had regional sensitisations, all parties were invited, we had national sensitisation, we met with party people and in the roadmap we stated that the first step towards electing our metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives is amendment of Article 55(3) of the 1992 constitution, an entrenched clause, we need to amend it to pave way for election of our MMDCEs on partisan basis, pave way for political parties to participate in district level elections, including MMDCEs. So the whole conversation about amendment of Article 55(3) started because the decision was taken to elect our MMDCEs on partisan basis,” she said.
She added: “ We even went into this issue of amending Article 55(3) because the decision was taken to elect MMDCEs on partisan basis. Then we said there are two fundamental provisions of the constitution, Article 243(1), that is not an entrenched clause, it has to be done by Parliament and with two-thirds majority, we had it approved. We've gone through all the motions on Article 243(1), it was sent to Parliament, sent to Council of State for advice, sent to Parliament, sent to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, they debated on it, came up with a consensus for us to approve Artle 243(1) to allow for election of MMDCEs and what does the Bill say? An amendment to read, 'Each shall have a District Chief Executive who shall be elected to office by Universal Adult Suffrage within the district. This went to Parliament, the final second reading was on 22nd July , we debated this and we are anticipating a vote.
“Our Minority side said if we amended it, if they voted for 243(1) amending it, that will mean that we can elect MMDCEs..., but we had to hold on to it for further discussions on that, so for me today, I'm so surprised that they are now saying that they do not want to see MMDCEs elected on partisan basis. And Article 55(3) yes, it is about non-participation of political parties in district level elections. 55(3) says that political parties can sponsor candidates in elections to public office either than district level elections. So it is important to amend it so that, a decision to elect MMDCEs on partisan basis can go through. If we amend Article 243(1), we can have MMDCEs elected but not on partisan basis, so 55(3) is to allow for, whilst we amend 243(1), amendment of that and then have our election of MMDCEs on partisan basis. That's why we made the link. That conversation of amendment of Article 55(3) will not have even started at all.”