By Bernice Bessey
December 17, 2019 has been slated for a national referendum, during which the citizens would decide whether political parties should participate in local elections.
This was made possible with the amendment of the Constitutional Instrument (CI) on referendum that would allow political parties to sponsor their choice of candidate in the decentralisation process.
However, the successful amendment of Article 55(3) is hoped to bring substantial benefits to Ghana’s democracy and development.
Meanwhile, what a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), Coalition on the National Referendum and Elections, is graciously looking forward to is 243(1) which would pave way for Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMSCEs) to be elected by popular acclamation.
The two – 243(1) and 55(3) – amendments have the potential to change the face of local governance in Ghana, hence, requires the active participation and inputs of the citizens in the processes leading up to the amendment.
Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister for Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), at the launch of the Coalition in Accra, explained that the election of MMDCEs could only be possible if the amendment of 243(1) receives two-thirds approval of parliamentarians.
She explained that the two articles are not the same, however, they will be complementing each other if voted for by the electorate and parliamentarians.
The Minister indicated one person who has shown keen interest in the process is President Akufo-Addo, who has willingly wants to give the power to appoint MMDCEs to the people.
She added that the government, through her ministry, initiated the process to amend Articles 243(1) and 55(3) in the 1992 Constitution, which were entrenched provisions.
The only challenge to these Articles is the citizens and parliamentary approval, which she urged the coalition to lobby the Members of Parliament and the citizenry to vote massively for.
Article 243(1) needs two-thirds of parliamentary votes, while the referendum must record 40 percent of voter turnout, with 75 percent approval.
With the history of low voter turnouts in elections other than generation elections of parliamentarians and president, she urged the coalition to educate the public on the importance of this process.
According to her, “The President is ready to handover that power to Ghanaians,” and as a result, the CSOs must work harder to lobby the parliamentarians, since that is what 61 percent of the citizens desire.
The Coalition is made up of the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), and Centre for Local Governance Advocacy (CLGA).
Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, a Coalition Member, said the people of Ghana had called for the election for MMDCEs of their various localities, and after 31 years of Ghana practicing decentralisation, people believe the MMDCEs are not being accountable because they were appointed by the President.
Similarly, most of the political parties, in their 2016 manifestoes, said they would push the agenda of electing MMDCEs when given the nod.
He called on the citizens to support the process for the election of MMDCEs and multiparty system at the local level election.
Also, if the Articles are voted for, the election of MMDCEs would be implemented in 2021.