The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Flagbearer, John Dramani Mahama, has reiterated the NDC’s “NO” vote stance ahead of the December 17 referendum to decide on an amendment to of Article 55 (3) of the constitution to enable political parties to sponsor candidates during local level elections.
According to him, the country’s politics is already too polarised and this has negatively affected national discourse.
Speaking at the Damba festival of Buipe in the Savannah Region, the NDC flagbearer again said the thing Ghanaians were most concerned about was the election of District Chief Executives.
Mr. Mahama has previously said an amendment to Article 243(1) of the constitution was more pressing than changes to district level elections.
Per Article 243 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, 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.
Mr. Mahama also suggested that some government officials were trying to mislead Ghanaians on the purpose of the referendum.
“It should be made clear that the referendum on 17th December is not about whether District Chief Executives should be elected or not. It is about whether political parties should participate in our local government.”
He added that some government officials “either do not understand the distinction in respect of the referendum or there is a deliberate calculation or there is a deliberate calculation to confuse our people to think that the referndum is about the election of District Chief Executives.”
As the referendum day drew closer, there was a noticeable split among major stakeholders and observers.
After a seeming consensus on a YES vote in the referendum, the NDC started advocating for a NO vote .
Like Mr. Mahama, the NDC was worried an amendment will open district assemblies and unit committees to “the needless NDC-NPP polarisation.”
The General Secretary of the NDC, Johnson Asiedu Nketia further claimed the government had not held any consultations with the party on the referendum.
The governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) was unsurprisingly in favour of a YES vote saying the amendment to the constitution will bolster Ghana's democracy.
Traditional leaders were also in disagreement over the need for partisan participation in the district level elections.
The House of Chiefs in a statement issued and signed by its President Togbe Afede XIV argued that decentralisation would negatively be affected by the control of local parties.
But the Paramount Chief of the Akyem Abuakwa traditional area and President of the Eastern Region House of Chiefs, Okyenhene Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin II urged Ghanaians to ignore calls for a NO vote in the national referendum .
There had already been indications that traditional leaders were not on the same page after Chairman of the Governance Committee of the House, Ogyeahoho Yaw Gyebi II of Sefwi Anhwiaso in the Western Region told Citi News the stance of the National House of Chiefs did not represent the collective view of the chiefs.