In "Chapter I", I wrote about how government, right from Presidency to the ministers, have taken a YES stand in the referendum and how that stand compromises the kind of education and awareness creation that is ongoing for the referendum. I also touched on how that singular act by the President and government has drawn in the opposition to take a NO stand thereby muddying the waters with partisanship. (You can read "chapter I" on http://tundeawosika.blogspot.com/2019/11/election-of-mmdces-what-yes-or-no-vote.html?m=1)
In chapter II, I seek to extrapolate that issue and explain why that interferes with the right to vote NO or NONE, among other things.
According to Afrobarometer Round 7 survey in Ghana, Election of MMDCEs and other aspects of local governance: What do Ghanaians say? It is stated that "A slim majority (51%) of Ghanaians say the election of MMDCEs should be non-partisan just like that of the local government councilors." Whilst "a sizeable minority (41%), however, would prefer partisan MMDCEs election."
Through the referendum, Ghanaians are going to answer basically the same question as was asked and answered in the Afrobarometer round 7 survey. As to whether the outcome will be the same as the Afrobarometer survey is something the vote count after the referendum will determine. But at least for now, we can make deductions from the survey. As it stands in the survey, we can fairly say Ghanaians prefer the election of MMDCEs on a non-partisan basis to partisan basis.
Meanwhile, the state institutions which are educating citizens on the referendum are supposed to run awareness creation that embraces the two options, i.e. YES and NO and what both portends, so that citizens would make their own choices base on their own judgment. But because of the President and government wade in (by taking a YES vote stance), these state institutions are running education and awareness that is geared towards influencing citizens towards securing a YES vote.
The Information Services Department (IDS) and Ministry of local Government have both churned out materials in the form of video jingles, social media flyers etc, telling people to vote YES in the coming referendum and they've done that overtly. These are major partners of National Commission for Civic Education who are supposed to give fair and balance education to citizens and allow citizens make their own choices. The National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and the Electoral Commission (EC) jointly launched a “Citizens’ Education and Awareness Raising Campaign” to educate the public on the upcoming District Level Elections (DLEs) and referendum for a constitutional amendment.
They did the launch jointly with the Electoral Commission of Ghana. Surprisingly, the Director of Elections at the EC, Dr. Serebour Quaicoe is on record at the launch to have said that that the amendment was to legalize what was illegally done by politicians. This is the referee who is expected to act in an unbiased manner in any election and he is telling citizens that the referendum gives them the opportunity to legalize what politicians made illegal (implying they should vote a YES). How are we therefore sure that the outcome would be reflective of the choices of citizens?
Among all the State Agencies involved in the education and awareness creation towards the referendum, it is National Commission for Civic Education that has largely kept its head above water and has to a very large extent kept to fair and balanced awareness creation on the referendum. All the other state agencies as named above are creating awareness to secure a YES vote.
Notwithstanding, there is a small part of NCCE's awareness creation that may play into what seems to be the "YES Vote Agenda" being pursued. The part of the education that is asking citizens to show up massively on the day of the referendum, because for a YES vote to pass, the voter turnout must be at least 40% of registered voters. That is the first test that the YES Vote advocates must win and next would be that 75 % (of the 40%) must be a YES vote.
These imply that if the voter turnout is less than 40% of registered voters, the YES Vote would effectively be said to have lost. So for those praying and pleading that people vote NO, the NO vote can win on three grounds:
1. That voter turnout is less than 40% of total registered voters, then the NO would have won on technical or legal grounds irrespective of how many voted YES in the end result.
2. In the case that the voter turnout is at least 40% or more of total registered voters, then the YES vote must not be up to 75% of it.
3. The NO Vote supersedes the YES, whether voter turn out is 40 % of registered voters or not.
In that sense, we must respect the decision of anyone who does not want to show up for the election at all, as a way of making sure the 40% voter turnout is not met, which a significant accumulation of that will mean the YES vote will lose. The person is not voting YES or NO, the person simply says NONE. That is a decision that must also be respected, that is why I find "the let us all show up to vote because we need 40% turnout" education and awareness going on as a something that also plays into the YES Vote agenda going on, led by key state agencies.
Citizens have the right to show up and vote YES or NO, at the same time, they have the right not to show up at all so as not to meet the at least 40% threshold, or even show up but skip the referendum, these are all choices that would affect the referendum. Those choices must all be respected.
(Socio-Political Observer and youth development practitioner)
15th November 2019.
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