The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has indicated that it will only consider a 'YES' vote to amend the constitution to allow political parties to participate in the district level elections if the government makes available, guidelines for the referendum.
Already, the NDC has kicked against the amendment of Article 55 (3) which will allow political parties to sponsor candidates for election to district assemblies or lower local government units.
Some Ghanaians are worried that the country may get stuck on how to proceed after the referendum in the absence of a clear blueprint on the participation of political parties at the local level.
Speaking on Eyewitness News, a member of the NDC’s analysis committee on the referendum and former Attorney General, Marietta Brew-Appiah Oppong, maintained that the party only wants the best for the country’s democracy and that government should be candid on all the consequential issues.
“We need a clear blueprint to discuss all the consequential matters. Have we thought through that for instance, a member of the opposition party is elected as DCE when there is a different government in power? We need to think through it. If we think there is nothing wrong with it so be it. But I think there is something fundamentally wrong with that.”
“The point is that, have we thought through all these things and agreed that this is the way we want to go? We in the NDC do not think so, that is why we are voting NO at the referendum unless the Bill is withdrawn, we look at it, we have a national dialogue on it, and there is a blueprint that sets out all the consequential matters. It is not just about the parties but about what people are going to do on the referendum day”, she added.
Two bills are seeking amendments to Articles 243(1) and 55(3) for the election of MMDCEs and introduction of political party participation in the local elections.
At the moment, the law, in Article 243 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, says District Chief Executives for every district are to be appointed by the President with the prior approval of not less than two-thirds majority of members of the assembly present and voting at the meeting.
The NDC had argued that there will be party-motivated projects and programmes such as 'NDC Communal Labour Day' and 'NPP Communal Labour Day' particularly in rural areas if District Assembly elections are made partisan.
National Chairman of the NDC, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo at a press conference on Tuesday said a YES vote, will open district assemblies and unit committees to “the needless NDC-NPP polarization”.
He therefore asked Ghanaians to vote against the proposal.
“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. It is our well-considered view, and indeed that of well-meaning Ghanaians, that the needless NDC-NPP polarization 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.”
NDC's campaign against December referendum a 'set back' – Kwesi Jonah
But Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), Kwesi Jonah had said the NDC's latest stance is a “ big loss ”.
He was surprised the NDC was suddenly campaigning against the referendum when it had earlier expressed its willingness to engage with various stakeholders on the referendum.
“We have been working very hard so this is a kind of set back for us. We have always believed that the two main parties in Parliament need to work closely together and this is one of them. The decision taken by NDC to campaign for a NO vote is not going to be helpful. There certainly was inadequate consultation and that is how IDEG and CDD came in. We realised that on the 27th of July, when Parliament was trying to amend Article 243 (1), we thought there was no understanding or a prior agreement and attempt to build consensus and that is why we came in, but even though we tried, the two parties met and it seemed to me we had almost sealed an agreement so this statement coming from the NDC is certainly a big loss,” he said.
More than half of Ghanaians not aware of upcoming referendum – Afrobarometer report
Close to 60 percent of Ghanaians say they are not aware of the upcoming referendum slated for December 17, 2019, according to a new Afrobarometer survey.
The survey indicated that there is a risk of low voter turnout for this referendum because it will be conducted together with local government elections, which have historically attracted less than 40 percent of registered voters.
Of the less than 42 percent of Ghanaians who are aware of the referendum, indications are that men, the highly educated, and elderly citizens are more aware of the referendum than women, citizens with less schooling, and young adults.
Awareness of the referendum increased with respondents' level of education.
It reached 62 percent among those with post-secondary education, compared to 35 percent to 42 percent among those with less schooling.
Men, comprising 52 percent, are more likely to be aware of the referendum than women; 32 percent.