President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo has directed a cancellation of the December 17 referendum which was to enable Ghanaians decide whether to introduce partisanship into the country’s district level elections.
“It is with deep regrets that I’ve given instructions to the minister for local government and rural development …to abort the process,” Nana Akufo-Addo announced in a televised stataement on December 1.
The Minister is accordingly to “see to the withdrawal” of the two bills that sought to amend Article 243(1) and Article 55(3) of the constitution, from parliament.
‘Issue still opened’
Despite the turn of events, an apparent disappointed Nana Akufo-Addo said his government will continue to dialogue to get consensus on the issue, stating once that is achieved while President, the matter will be brought back “for the necessary action”.
Government introduced a bill in parliament with the view to repeal Article 55(3) of the constitution to give political parties the opportunity to participate in and sponsor candidates for district level elections.
The Electoral Commission was scheduled to as part of the upcoming district level elections on December 17, conduct a referendum on issue.
Ghanaians were to answer either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the question: “Are you in favour of the bill to amend clause 3 of Article 55 of the 1992 constitution to allow political parties to sponsor candidates for election to District Assemblies or Lower Local Government Units?”.
At least a 40 per cent voter turnout of total registered voters in the country and 75 per cent voting were required to affirm the proposal, which government has been pushing for months.
Though there was a seeming initial consensus on the issue, but the National Democratic Congress two weeks ago made a u-turn to campaign for a ‘No’ vote.
The National House of Chiefs also recently issued a statement urging Ghanaians to reject the introduction of partisan politics into the district level elections by voting NO.
But a section of the chiefs dissociated themselves from that statement issued by the President of the House and his vice, triggering a division among the chiefs on the issue.
Yes’ vote would’ve been successful but…
Addressing the nation on the development Sunday night, President Nana Akufo-Addo said though there is still strong support to make the referendum a success, “I do not believe this is the proper atmosphere in issue of such nature”.
“I also think that in matters of such constitutional significance, there should be a broad national consensus behind the repeal of an entrenched provision of the constitution,” he indicated.
According to Nana Akufo-Addo, “there was every reason for me to believe that there was consensus on the matter,” based on which he proceeded to initiate the process for the repeal of the two Articles of the constitution.
He revealed that immediately he assumed office in January 2017, he met with former presidents John Rawlings, John Kufuor and John Mahama at the Jubilee House to seek their opinion on the matter.
He said it was clear from that meeting that there was consensus.
Again, the President said MPs and leadership of parliament and stakeholders he personally engaged and those engaged by the Ministry of Local Development showed a broad consensus on the matter.
Even after the NDC U-turn, he said, he undertook further consultations as to the way forward.
“The general results of these consultations was that the process of this repeal should be put on hold for the time being to enable a durable national consensus to be forged on this matter,” he stated.
“In these circumstances,” Nana Akufo-Addo said, “I’m convinced that it will not serve the public interest to go ahead with the holding of the referendum on 17th December even though I believe a strong campaign for Yes vote would have succeeded”.