A few weeks to the December 17 referendum, Members of Parliament (MP) are still divided over the upcoming December 17 referendum.
Whilst those on the Minority side are kicking against partisan participation in local level elections, those on the Majority side believe it should be partisan.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Odododiodio and Minority Spokesperson on Local Government, Nii Lante Vanderpuye, argued in a Citi News interview that electing assembly members and unit committee members on partisan lines will not be the best for the country.
“We consulted further with our grassroots who are the party people who gave us the mandate to be here. The party’s conclusion is that, we are for election of MMDCEs but we are against the politicization of the local governance system. So we are urging our supporters to vote NO. If not, they are going to entrench the polarization of our system politically. Everything in Ghana is polarized. When politicians meet at the local level, we are more than enemies at each other’s throat,” he said.
But for the Ablekuma Central MP, Ebenezer Nartey Narh, making such election partisan will deepen the local governance system in Ghana.
“We have added the political parties to it because even if you go to the AMA today, we have the NDC Assembly members and NPP Assembly members. Even the 17 December elections to elect Assembly members is really partisan, and it is the hypocrisy of both parties. So why are we pretending that we are not doing what we are calling for now?” he quizzed.
The referendum is to decide on a possible amendment of Article 55 (3) of the 1992 Constitution to enable political parties to sponsor candidates for the local level elections.
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’’.
Although moves are underway in Parliament to amend the constitution, Article 55 (3) is considered as an entrenched clause hence can only be amended after a referendum.
There is another motion in Parliament seeking to amend Article 243 (1) of the Constitution to allow Ghanaians to elect their own Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) but that does not require a referendum.
Parliament is currently awaiting the outcome of the December 17 referendum before taking a decision.
Article 243 (1) states that: “There shall be a District Chief Executive for every district who shall be appointed by the President with the prior approval of not less than two-thirds majority of members of the Assembly present and voting at the meeting.”
The outcome of the referendum will have either of the following outcomes: If the electorate votes YES, the election of MMDCEs, Assembly and Unit Committee Members in the near future will be on a partisan basis.
If Ghanaians vote NO, then the election of these candidates for the local level elections will be on a non-partisan basis as being practised now.
But Parliament may decide to amend Article 243 (1) to allow for the election of MMDCEs.
While the government and some civil society organization are in support of a ‘Yes’ vote in the upcoming referendum, the opposition NDC, some organizations and a section of the National House of Chiefs are advocating for a ‘No’ vote.
Some Assembly Members in Accra back ‘NO vote’ in December Referendum
Some Assembly Members within the Greater Region had also kicked against moves to make local level elections partisan.
They are of the opinion that, politicization of local level polls will prevent competent people from contesting such elections.
Two of these assembly members campaigning for a ‘NO’ vote said political parties participation in local level elections will increase the cost of the elections and breed corruption.
Erasmus Odartey Xerton, who is the Assembly Member for Ringway Electoral Area said:
“For political parties getting involved into assembly elections, it is a big no. I personally came into this business without the help of any political party. If it is allowed, are they telling us people like me cannot get the chance to go into the elections? When parties start funding assembly elections, we have to file for primaries through their laws before we get their support.”
For the Assembly Member for Osu Alata, Hubert Kpakpo Garshong, there is no need for level governance to be partisan.
“I am for a NO. The reason being that, we don’t want the local assemblies to be politicized because that is the only place that we hardly see politics dividing us. I feel politics should be left at the top for the base to be left as it is”, he said.