GHANA: PUBLIC EDUCATION ON THE DECEMBER 17 REFERENDUM

Source: www.africanakua.com/ Clara Beeri Kasser-Tii (Lecturer, Ghana School of Law)

A constitutional referendum will be held in Ghana on 17 December 2019, alongside district level elections.

The proposed amendments to the constitution would allow for the direct election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) and allow political parties to be involved in local elections.

The direct election of MMDCEs was a campaign promise of the then presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the 2016 general elections, now President, Nana Akufo-Addo.

The proposed changes would involve amending article 243(1), which provides for the appointment of MMDCEs by the president, and article 55(3), which bans political party activity in district-level elections. As article 55 is an entrenched clause the referendum requires a turnout of at least 40% and over 75% of those voting to vote in favour for the proposal to be passed.

The incoming referendum however has generated a lot of open discussions in the country especially on social media where some political party freaks are taking undue advantage of the whole situation to mislead and (or) confuse the masses.

Read in this article an in-depth and simple explanation of the December 17 referendum:

1. What is the referendum about?

The referendum is not about whether or not you should appoint or elect MMDCEs. No, far from it.

2. Fact is, the question of whether or not we should elect MMDCEs is a question that parliament has the power to answer. It is not a question to be answered at a referendum, and, this referendum is not asking you to answer that question.

3. Can we have election of MMDCEs without this referendum? The answer is a resounding YES!

4. Again, yes, we can have election of MMDCES without this referendum.

5. How do we have an election of MMDCEs without a referendum?

The answer is, by amendment of article 243 in parliament. The Bill for the amendment of article 243 to enable us elect MMDCEs is already in Parliament. It is expected that it will be passed.

6. What does this mean?

What this means is, when the Bill in parliament for the amendment of article 243 is passed, we will have the right to elect MMDCEs. Yes, the President will no longer appoint MMDCEs. Rather, we will elect the MMDCEs.

7. What does this further mean?

It means that after Parliament has passed this Bill, we will elect MMDCEs, but it will be non-partisan.

8. What does it mean to say elections of MMDCEs will be non-partisan?

It means that it will not be political parties deciding more or less as to who will contest as MMDCEs. It will be the ordinary Ghanaians, and they will not be required to vote on political party lines.

9. You see, currently, with respect to election of Members of Parliament (MPs), it is political party delegates who decide who will contest as MPs on their political party’s ticket. Are you familiar with the statement “fear delegates”? It is because political party delegates get to decide whether or not you get to contest as MP on their political party’s ticket. So largely, the quality of parliamentary candidates you get on the ticket of political parties is controlled by political party delegates. If you live in Ghana, you know how this works.

9. So what is this referendum about?

The answer is, after parliament gives us the power to elect our own MMDCEs by passing the Bill already in parliament, we are now being asked whether or not political parties should more or less control this one too, i.e should political parties once more be determining who should contest as MMDCE, assembly member or unit committee member?

10. Really?

Yes, after giving us the power to decide who becomes our MMDCEs, etc, the Constitution says that political parties must not sponsor candidates on their party ticket to contest these positions, (i.e local government elections). In short, the election of the MMDCEs, etc will be non-partisan, unless we, at a referendum decide that the political parties can takeover this one as well.

11.  So why the referendum?

The referendum is for one purpose and one purpose only – that we will more or less give up our new found power on Parliament’s amendment of article 243 which allows us to elect MMDCEs, (albeit on non-partisan basis) to the political parties. Yes, the referendum is for one purpose only – should local assembly elections be partisan? Should we elect MMDCEs, Assembly women/ Assembly men, Unit Committee members on political party lines?

12. Will this make local assembly representatives accountable to the people or to political parties?

They say if you do not know death, look at sleep. Are our MPs currently accountable largely to the people or to their political parties? Is it delegates they fear, or is it the people they fear? No, don’t tell me your answer. Look directly in the mirror, and answer that question honestly to yourself?

N/B. Please do not worry if you are confused. It is not your fault that you are confused. It is because those responsible for educating you on the “facts” of this referendum did not do a good job of it. If they had, you would not have been confused about what the referendum is about. You would have not been under the wrong impression that it is this referendum that will determine whether we vote for MMDCes or not, nor would you have been under the wrong impression, that this referendum is to empower you. No, it is not. Rather, it is to further empower partisan politics. Now that you know the facts, it is your responsibility to unlearn the wrong information you previously held, so that you can make an informed choice upon your independent reflection. And, sharing is caring. So educate others too.

Share the link ( https://africanakua.com/2019/11/17/ghana-public-education-on-the-december-17-referendum/ ) of this story from this website to others for them to know this referendum is not about whether or not we should elect MMDCEs. That is a question for parliament not us. Rather, this referendum is about whether or not the election of MMDCEs, assembly members and unit committee members should be along political party lines.

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