Referendum called off in absence of broad national consensus Featured

President Akufo-Addo has called off the referendum on partisan election of all local government representatives, originally scheduled for December 17, citing the lack of a broad national consensus among key players and voters.

He has accordingly directed the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development to abort the process and withdraw the bills for amendment of the constitution, in respect of both Articles 243 (1) and 55 (3).

Addressing the nation yesterday, President Akufo-Addo said the attainment of a broad consensus on a matter as important as the amendment of an entrenched provision of the constitution is critical.

Not a party matter

“I do not believe that such an amendment should be driven as a party matter. There has to be a clear national consensus and agreement amongst the populace that a particular entrenched provision no longer serves the interest of the people, and thus has to be removed,” he said.

“In this case, it had been long apparent that political parties were in fact actively involved in district assembly elections, despite their apparently non-partisan nature. The time had come to strip the process of its hypocrisy, and accept and work with the reality of party involvement,” he added.

The President said he came into office with the firm conviction, emanating from the election campaign and national discussions, that there was a national consensus for two important amendments to the country’s governance system which would enhance its effectiveness and accountability. These were the reorganisation of the country’s regional governance structure and the potential involvement of political parties in local governance.

He said it was in furtherance of this, and other matters, that he held a meeting with his three predecessors to seek their views and counsel on these matters.

“I came away from that meeting with the view that there was consensus amongst us that the time had come for political parties to participate openly in district assembly elections and local governance,” he said.

He added that among the leadership of Parliament and MPs on both sides of the House, as well as all stakeholders who had been consulted, the clear indication was that there was a broad national consensus for the repeal of Article 55 (3).

He debunked the notion that elections in Ghana’s Fourth Republic have been divisive, saying they have rather been a unifying political factor.

The President argued that this is the reason why “we have experienced the longest uninterrupted period of stable constitutional governance in our history, banishing the spectre of instability that disfigured the early years of our nation’s existence, and the benefits are still showing. It would also mean that freedom of association, which is one of the most fundamental freedoms in any democracy, would be given full expression in Ghanaian democracy.”

NDC U-turn

The President said the U-turn by the NDC shows that it is no longer prepared to go along with the national consensus.

“They indicated further that they will actively campaign for a No vote. Inasmuch as I still believe that there is enough support in the country for a Yes vote to be successful on 17 December, I do not believe that this is the proper atmosphere in which an issue of such nature, ie, the repeal of an entrenched provision of the constitution, should be addressed in our country,” he said.

He said after the NDC’s U-turn, he undertook consultations across a broad range of opinion as to the way forward, and the general response was that the process should be put on hold to enable a durable, national consensus to be forged on the matter.

“In these circumstances, I am convinced that it will not serve the public interest to go ahead with the holding of the referendum on 17 December, even though I believe a strong campaign for a Yes vote would have succeeded,” he said.

The President offered his assurance that his government will continue to work for a broad national consensus on how to reform local government, adding: “Should such a consensus be attained for the repeal of Article 55 (3) of the constitution, and an agreement reached for political parties to participate in and sponsor candidates for election to district assemblies, at any point during my tenure of office as President of the Republic, the matter will be brought again back to the front burner of our public discourse for the necessary action.”

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