WITHDRAWAL OF THE DECEMBER 17 REFERENDUM
The decision by President Akufo-Addo to cancel the referendum scheduled for the 17th of this month was a wise one and well thought out albeit with legal ramifications. It saved the country’s democracy and indeed the local government system. The issue, however, is whether President Akufo-Addo is clothed with the requisite powers to effect the cancellation. The earlier decision to introduce multi-party politics into the country’s local government system was fraught with several discrepancies. President Akufo-Addo in a televised address last Sunday announced the cancellation of the Referendum which sought to seek the people’s mandate to amend Article 55 (3) of the 1992 Constitution to allow for the direct election of Metropolitan Municipal and District Chief Executives and encourage political parties to be involved in local elections. The direct election of MMDCEs was a campaign promise of President 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 election. As Article 55 is an entrenched clause, the Referendum requires a turn out of at least 40 per cent and over 75 per cent of those voting to be in favour of the proposal.
President Akufo-Addo upon sober reflection had to call off the Referendum over what he says was due to lack of consensus among key stakeholders and Ghanaians in general. Several people have taken the President to task for arrogating to himself the responsibility of the Electoral Commission which amounts to interference in its work. Whatever it is, there was no victor or vanquish in the cancellation of the Referendum, Ghana’s democracy was the winner. It is difficult to understand why President Akufo-Addo ordered for the withdrawal of the bill to amend Article 243(1) of the Constitution which allows him to appoint MMDCEs. The bill was at the final stage awaiting the vote of MPs. Analysts believe this was a wrong move by the President since that particular bill had a seeming bi-partisan backing. It was clearly evident the whole processes towards organising the Referendum lacked appropriate consultation culminating in huge financial loss to the state. We are yet to hear from the Electoral Commission whose duty it is to organise the Referendum given its independence and autonomy of government.
The cancellation of the Referendum by President Akufo-Addo even though well-intentioned has sent tongues wagging and is likely to trigger legal There is litigation. There is no doubt processes and issues involved in the Referendum were confusing and very few Ghanaians understood what the whole thing was about. The No Vote proponents would, therefore, have had a field day should it have gone ahead since they needed just 26 per cent to have torpedoed those in favour of it. This perhaps might have informed the President’s decision to abort the Referendum for lack of consensus.
The Electoral Commission as the statutory body charged with the organisation of the referendum shot itself in the foot when its Deputy Chairperson Dr. Bossman Asare took a partisan stance to campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote in the Referendum. This observer believes amounts to bias and must be checked. As umpires in the Electoral Process, the EC is required to be neutral in all its dealings. Elections are very sensitive and ignite emotive issues and people put in charge are expected to exhibit candour in their deliberations. This must be made clear. A stitch in time saves nine.
BY JUSTICE MINGLE, A JOURNALIST.