Legal Practitioner Martin Kpebu has argued for the cancellation or postponement of the December 17 referendum saying the Bill to amend Article 55 (3) could simply be withdrawn from Parliament.
An amendment of Article 55 (3) of the 1992 Constitution will enable political parties to sponsor candidates for local level elections.
But the debate over the referendum has heated as December 17 approaches with some persons advocating for a NO vote and others calling for the referendum to be scrapped altogether because of concerns with preparation and implementation of the possible amendment.
Though some have argued that the process for the referendum, per Article 290 of the Constitution, is too far-gone in for a cancellation, Mr. Kpebu said the Bill to amend Article 55 (3) could be treated like any other Bill.
“The referendum is meant to approve the Bill so if the Bill is withdrawn from Parliament, how can the referendum go on? It is not possible.”
“If we concede that this referendum is part of the process of approving a Bill, it means we can withdraw it because nobody so far is challenging the power of the Executive to withdraw a Bill,” he said.
Another lawyer, John Ndebugre, who had earlier insisted the referendum could not be derailed used Article 290 to insist that the government could no longer withdraw the Bill.
“The matter is no more with the President. The matter is no more with Parliament. The matter is with the Electoral Commission. All the President has to do now is to wait. Parliament has to wait and when the result is read, they are duty bound to pass the Bill without debate and send it to the President.”
What Article 290 says
Article 290 says a Bill for the amendment of an entrenched provision shall, before Parliament proceeds to consider it, be referred by the Speaker to the Council of State for its advice and the Council of State shall render advice on the bill within thirty days after receiving it.
The Bill shall also be published in the Gazette but shall not be introduced into Parliament until the expiry of six months after the publication in the Gazette under this clause.
After the Bill has been read the first time in Parliament it shall not be proceeded with further unless it has been submitted to a referendum held throughout Ghana and at least forty percent of the persons entitled to vote, voted at the referendum and at least 75 percent of the persons who voted cast their votes in favour of the passing of the Bill.
If the Bill is approved at the referendum, Parliament shall pass it.
Where a Bill for the amendment of an entrenched provision has been passed by Parliament in accordance with this Article, the President shall assent to it.
More pressure over December 17 referendum
More pressure is being mounted on the government to halt plans to hold the December 17 referendum.
The National House of Chiefs and opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) among other pressure groups are campaigning for electorates to vote ‘NO’ at the polls.
But the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) believes a ‘YES’ majority vote holds the magic to the future of Ghana’s development.
The ‘YES’ agenda is also being pushed by the Head of Local Government Service, Nana Ato Arthur who has debunked claims that electing Metropolitan Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) will divide the country.
“Accountability, decency, truthfulness and hope for a better future, would be thrown to the dogs the very day we allow political parties to present candidates for election at the local level,” the group said.
Akufo-Addo to take final decision on referendum soon – Hadzide
President Nana Akufo-Addo is expected to take a final decision in the coming days on whether the December 17 referendum will come off as planned.
According to Deputy Minister of Information, Pius Hadzide, before the President travelled outside the country, he commissioned another round of consultations on the process and he will make a decision on the matter after he receives a report on the consultations.
“This is a listening government. Before the president travelled out of the country, he gave instructions that another round of consultations be carried out to clear out the misconception that has been driven into the system to bring clarity to bear on this issue. There is a referendum slated for the 17th of December, [and] we are proceeding. When the President comes, he will be briefed about the outcome of the consultations and he will take a decision.”