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Breaking: Prez. Akufo-Addo calls off December 17, referendum

By Mutala Yakubu

President Akufo-Addo has called off the December 17 referendum.

The December 17 Referendum seeks to amend Article 55(3) of the 1992 Constitution to enable Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) and unit committee members to be elected along political party lines.

READ ALSO: Vote 'No' in December referendum - NDC urges Ghanaians

The President who addressed the nation today December 1, 2019, said a broader consultation will have to be done before the process goes ahead.

"The main opposition party the NDC stated they were no longer prepared to go along with the national consensus. They indicated further they will actively campaign for a 'No' vote. In as much as I still believe that there is enough support in the country for a 'Yes' vote to be successful on December 17, I do not believe that this is a proper atmosphere for such a history to be made in our country. Even though I am unrepentant in my belief that party politics is good for our country because it enhances accountability I think matters of such significance needs a broad national consensus. So it is with deep regret that I have given instructions to the Minister for Local government and Rural development  to abort the process and see to the withdrawal of the bill"

Essentially the President said prior to him instructing the Local Government Minister to initiate the Parliamentary processes leading to the referendum, he had a meeting with his predecessors including former presidents Rawlings, Kuffour, and Mahama who together agreed to initiate processes to amend the entrench provisions in the constitution regarding political partisan participation in local governance elections.

According to him, he met the former Presidents to seek their counsel on the matter and further had several stakeholder engagements which convinced him on the forward in seeking broader consultation of the Ghanaian populace in amending the constitutional provision.

He further stated that it came to him as a surprise when the leading opposition party, the NDC made what he termed as a sudden U-turn on the matter.

Ever since the December 17 referendum process begun, there have been several questions as to whether to allow political party participation at the local government level.

The government needed at least 40 percent of eligible voters turning out to vote and at least 75 percent voting in favour for its ‘Yes’ campaign to succeed.

Several civil society groups have spoken against the decision as well as the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress.

The NDC on November 12, 2019, held a press conference and their Chairman Samuel Ofosu Ampofo said the local government system should remain non-partisan and that individuals should contest the District Assembly and Unit Committee elections on their own merit.

“We, therefore, decided to campaign for a NO vote at the referendum and to urge all Ghanaians to vote NO at the referendum.

There was even a clear division amongst members of the National House of Chiefs.

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 local parties.

READ ALSO: Referendum: NDC's 'NO' campaign is an unpatriotic betrayal of the Ghanaian people - NPP

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.