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25.11.2019 General News

December Referendum In Limbo

By News Desk
December 17 Referendum

The fate of the upcoming December 17 referendum is hanging precariously, as the ongoing engagements with stakeholders suggest a loud voice for postponement.

The stakeholders are calling for postponement of the referendum for more education since the process was not properly understood.

President Akufo-Addo, who is on an official assignment outside the country, had called for further engagements with stakeholders with regard to the upcoming referendum following the breakdown of consensus around the project.

Everything had been going on smoothly for the referendum to record a massive 'Yes' vote to amend Article 55 (3) of the Constitution to enable political parties to sponsor candidates for the election of metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs) until the NDC gave counter direction calling for a 'No' vote.

The amendment would have also given the chance to amend Article 243 (1) of the Constitution which empowers the President to nominate MMDCEs. The bill for 233 (1) is already in Parliament and if the referendum fails to secure 75%, the President may have to keep his power to appoint MMDCEs under Article 233 (1).

Spearheading the engagements is Vice-President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia supported by the Minister of Local Government, Hajia Alima Mahama, and her deputy, Osei Bonsu Amoah, who met several interest groups, including religious leaders, civil society groups, journalists, religious groups, chiefs, among others, last week.

They all conceded that the devolution of power at the local level is good idea to ensure transparency and accountability but more time is needed to reach out to Ghanaians about the project, especially when there is deeper understanding being cascaded now.

They are, therefore, calling for the postponement of the referendum to deepen public education and sensitization.

The Vice-President is meeting Trades Union Congress (TUC) today as part of the ongoing consultations on the way forward.

The purpose of the engagement is to clear up misconceptions about the referendum and build consensus on the way forward.

But from the conversations around the referendum gleaned from the consultative process, there are strong indications that the 'Yes' vote may cross 60%; however, not getting 75% of the votes to enable the amendment to take place is the reason why some Ghanaians are calling for postponement of the referendum.

Chiefs Need Education

Even the National House of Chiefs whose members were also drumming for 'No' vote after listening to the Vice-President and Minister for Local Government came to the same conclusion that more education is need. They ended up discussing welfare issues with the government where they tabled a number of requests, DAILY GUIDE has learnt.

At the meeting with Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) last Wednesday, the clamour for postponement was unanimous with the journalists suggesting for strong public education, saying the opportunity to amend the Constitution to allow for election of MMDCEs should not be allowed to slip.

The Catholic Bishops, the Christian Council and Muslim groups all agreed that there is wisdom in allowing political parties to sponsor candidates for district assembly elections.

Way Forward

President Akufo-Addo is expected to make a conclusive pronouncement on the way forward on his return to the country tomorrow (Tuesday, November 26) whether the December 17 referendum will hold or not.

The Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, OB Amoah, told TV3 that there appears to be a breakdown in consensus on the referendum, especially after the NDC decided to toe the line of Kwamina Ahwoi who told the party to go for a 'No' vote.

Mr. Ahwoi, a former Local Government Minister, is said to have forced the main opposition party to shift its earlier position to a 'No' vote, saying that the district assembly concept is his legacy which must be protected.

Even the NDC front was even divided owing to the sudden change of position as the Minority MPs protested decision to vote no having committed themselves to a 'Yes' vote during the parliamentary processes.

Yes Agenda

According to OB Amoah, there was an overwhelming support for a 'Yes' vote during consultations ahead of the exercise with NDC and its Minority in Parliament all supporting the amendment.

“Seventy-five per cent or more was going for a 'Yes' vote until the major opposition party came in.”

Since the NDC came out with its position, there has been divided opinion on the votes.

There are also some strong 'no voice' in the ruling NPP who don't believe that the power to appoint MMDCEs should be taken away from the President.

If the president should settle for suspension of the referendum, it would be indefinite as sources say the Electoral Commission (EC) may not be able to organize new election in 2020 because of loaded timetable for the December elections.

---Daily Guide