The Minister for Local Government and Rural Development Hajia Alima Mahama has expressed surprise at the sudden position of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) regarding the upcoming referendum on political parties’ participation in the district level election.
The NDC has suddenly, publicly declared that it would be campaigning to get the people to vote no in the December 17 referendum.
The Minister said this was something she found shocking, considering the fact that the party had agreed by consensus in Parliament that article 55 (3) should be amended to allow the election of Metropolitan and Municipal District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) on partisan bases.
According to her, the U-turn which comes just before a little over a month left for the referendum to happen was strange and she called for the people to vote overwhelmingly “Yes”.
The NDC at a press conference in Accra on Tuesday urged Ghanaians to vote against the proposed amendment of Article 55 (3), which will make local government elections partisan.
Article 55 (3) states that “subject to the provisions of this article, a political party is free to participate in shaping the political will of the people, to disseminate information on political ideas, social and economic programmes of a national character and sponsor candidates for elections to any public office other than to District Assemblies or lower local government units.”
Mr. Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, the party’s National Chairman said they wanted the local government system to remain non-partisan and that individuals should contest the district assembly and unit committee elections on their own merit.
They had therefore decided to campaign for a “NO” vote at the referendum.
“The consequence of exporting this polarization into the District Assemblies is that very soon in our villages, there will be ‘NDC communal labour day’ and ‘NPP communal labour day’. There will also be ‘NDC market’ and ‘NPP market’ and so on and so forth,” he said.
He added that amendment of Article 55, would lead to several pitfalls, which he said the government was yet to consider.
“Without the needed clarity, confusion would arise out of the referendum. This is the problem Great Britain has had to grapple with since the Brexit referendum,” he stated.
Hajia Mahama, reacting to the NDC press conference, however, found it difficult to rationalize why the sudden change, having earlier agreed that the said article should be amended.
“The Minority agreed by consensus on July 29. They said they were hesitant to amend article 243 (1) because they wanted to have the referendum so that MMDCEs could be elected on partisan basis so it is important we go for the referendum, get 55 (3) amended before we amend 243 (1). However, we were of the view that article 243 (1) should be first amended before holding the referendum,” she said.
She said the argument by the NDC that the government should bring article 243 (1) to Parliament for the amendment was not well-grounded because that article had already been taken to the House. The process started last year, and it had now reached the voting stage.
She said even though the Constitution empowered the President to appoint MMDCES, he had called for the referendum to promote democracy at the local level.