The New Patriotic Party (NPP) says it is saddened by the cancellation of the December 17 referendum by President Nana Akufo-Addo.
At a press conference on Monday, addressed by its General Secretary, John Boadu, the NPP said the President was given “no choice” in the matter.
The President called off the referendum slated for December 17, due to what he calls the lack of a broad national consensus among key stakeholders and the populace.
He consequently instructed the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, to abort the process and see to the withdrawal of the bills for the amendment of the Constitution, both in respect of Articles 243(1) and 55(3).
But President Akufo-Addo pledged to continue consultations on the matter, which the NPP welcomed.
“We are however encouraged by the assurance last night that the President and the government are not giving up on this important search for a consensus for as long as the New Patriotic Party remains in office.”
The December 17 national referendum was meant to decide on an amendment of Article 55 (3) of the Constitution to enable political parties to sponsor candidates during local level elections.
But the absence of “a durable national consensus” on the matter following consultations compelled President Akufo-Addo to cancel the referendum.
“In these circumstances, I am convinced that it will not serve the public interest to go ahead with the holding of the public referendum on 17th December even though I believe a strong campaign for a YES vote would have succeeded. This is not the kind of atmosphere in which the repeal of an entrenched provision of the Constitution should take place,” he said.
The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) started advocating for a NO vote few weeks to the referendum saying an amendment to Article 55 (3) will open district assemblies and unit committees to “the needless NDC-NPP polarisation.”
Traditional leaders were also in disagreement over the need for partisan participation in the district level elections.
The National House of Chiefs in a statement issued and signed by its President Togbe Afede XIV argued that decentralisation would negatively be affected by the control of political parties.
But the Paramount Chief of the Akyem Abuakwa traditional area and President of the Eastern Region House of Chiefs, Okyenhene Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin II urged Ghanaians to ignore calls for a NO vote in the national referendum.
Akufo-Addo pained over NDC U-turn
President Nana Akufo-Addo as part of his speech on the cancellation of the referendum expressed disappointment in the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) for campaigning for a NO vote prior to the cancellation of the national referendum.
He noted that prior to triggering processes for the referendum, he consulted all the former presidents in Ghana including the flagbearer of the NDC, John Mahama. He was however unhappy with the current turn of events.
“It was in furtherance of this and other matters that on Tuesday 18th April 2017, a little over four months into my mandate, I held a meeting with my three predecessors, the first, second and fourth presidents of the fourth republic; their Excellencies Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kuffuor, and John Dramani Mahama at Jubilee House to seek their views and counsel on these issues.”
“I came away from that meeting with the view that there was a consensus among us that time [and I thought that] the time had come for political parties to participate openly in district assembly elections and local governance. Regrettably, two weeks ago, the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress made what I can only describe as a U-turn and stated that it was no longer prepared to go along with the national consensus. They indicated further that they will actively campaign for a NO vote,” he stated.
Confirming this, the Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah disclosed that he spoke to the President personally after calling off the referendum, explaining that Akufo-Addo is not upset but rather pained with regards to the outcome of the referendum.
“It is not [the referendum] being suspended, withdrawn or aborted that the President is upset about. I spoke with the President personally. He is pained that we had a brilliant opportunity after 25 years to do this now, but we hit a snag. He is hopeful that as we move along and engage and explain it a bit more we get that consensus back we can still reach that objective in a short period of time,” the Information Minister said.