The decision by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to call off the referendum on political parties’ participation in local level elections has been met with mixed reactions by some political parties.
While describing the calling off of the referendum as “a vindication and victory” for them, the parties said it was unfortunate that the President decided to cancel the entire process of making elections at the local level elective.
The political parties are the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the Progressive People's Party (PPP) and the People's National Convention (PNC).
In separate interviews with the Daily Graphic yesterday, the parties stressed that although they were in favour of the election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs), as well as assembly and unit committee members, they were against the introduction of partisan politics at the grass roots.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP), however, said it supported the decision by the President to abort the entire process to get MMDCEs elected.
It accused former President John Mahama and the NDC of acting in bad faith.
At a press conference in Accra yesterday, the NPP’s General Secretary, Mr John Boadu, said rather than condeming President Akufo-Addo, Ghanaians should commend him for taking that bold decision.
The Communications Officer of the NDC, Mr Sammy Gyamfi, said the directive by the President to halt the processes for the December 17 referendum was a clear indication that the political parties, institutions and other stakeholders who campaigned for ‘No vote’ ahead of the referendum had a genuine case.
“The twist of events shows that the President could not defeat the collective will of a determined people who are tired of the NDC-NPP partisan politics and, therefore, do not want it to see it in the local government system.
“We see this as a collective victory for collective patriotism. That said, it is also unpleasant because it is a clear case of financial loss to the state. There was no need for the government to have wasted the public purse on such a needless venture,” he stressed.
He stressed that contrary to assertions that the referendum had been called off because of seeming lack of national consensus on the issue, the withdrawal was “a convenience excuse to save the advocates for yes votes from eminent defeat.”
Mr Gyamfi also said the directive for the withdrawal of the bill before Parliament that sought to amend Article 243(1) of the 1992 Constitution to allow for MMDCEs to be elected demonstrated that the President was not committed to fulfilling the promise he made in the 2016 manifesto.
“The withdrawal of the bill for amending Article 243 (1) is very surprising because in all these about the referendum, the bone of contention has been about the amendment of Article 55 (3) to allow for political parties to sponsor candidates for local level elections.
For his part, the National Chairman of the PNC, Mr Bernard Mornah, said all campaigners against making local level elections partisan were not enemies of democracy but were rather safeguarding local governance from political infiltration.
He also described the withdrawal of Article 243 (1) as “strange”, since it had nothing to do with the election of MMDCEs.
“I want to state that this move by the President smacks of insincerity. The President should admit that there was no broader consultation on the referendum and know that we could have avoided this cost to the state if there had been consultation,” he said.
Mr Mornah called on President Akufo-Addo to trigger Article 243 (1) to pave the way for non-partisan election of MMDCEs if he was indeed committed to ceding power to the people.
Meanwhile, he said legal processes could commence to challenge the financial loss the abortive referendum had caused the state.
The First Vice Chairman of the PPP, Mr William Doworkpor, said the party was disappointed that the President directed the processes for the amendment of both articles 55 (3) and 243 (1) be withdrawn although they were different things altogether.
He said the move by the President had confirmed suspicions that he was not committed to having MMDCEs elected “and that is why he introduced article 55 (3) to confuse citizens.
“In the NPP manifesto for 2016, it was stated clearly that the MMDCEs will be elected 24 months upon assumption of office to coincide with the district assembly elections. They have missed that timeline and now they have a well-designed script that is being played out.
“The PPP is saying that the NPP has swindled Ghanaians when they said in their manifesto that they would elect MMDCEs within 24 months. The people of Ghana should rally round the PPP to resuscitate the idea of electing MMDCEs,” he said.
Meanwhile, the NPP threw its weight behind the President, saying that the last minute u-turn by the NDC in a referendum process that was going on smoothly was what caused the decision to abort the process.
In a statement signed by its General Secretary, Mr John Boadu, the party maintained its stance that partisan election of MMDCEs was what the country needed.
The statement accused former President Mahama and the NDC of acting in bad faith over the issue of the referendum.
“The NPP believed and continues to believe that freeing political parties to operate at the local level has the potential to redirect national politics and make local government truly developmental, enhancing resources, including human and technical, for the provision of essential services for accelerated development.
“Nonetheless, given the NDC's unpredictable and indecisive leadership, the NPP supports the President’s approach to withdraw the bills while the conversation goes on. It is in the national interest that the conversation goes on,” it said.
The party said President Akufo-Addo deserved commendation for “maintaining the need to secure true multi-party democratic practice in Ghana by agreeing, among other things, to devolve part of his appointive power back to the people in order to fully democratise the nation's local governance regime and thus strengthen decentralisation.