A Local Governance Expert, Dr Eric Oduro Osae, has challenged political parties to state in their 2020 manifestos how they are going to deepen governance at the local level after the botched referendum to offer the citizens the opportunity to elect their Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs).
That, he said, was because it was the ordinary citizen that lost greatly in the botched referendum as it would have made them part of the key decision-making process of choosing their MMDCEs.
“If you want to lead this country, think about deepening local democracy and tell us how you are going to prevent the imposition of a partisan person (chief executive) on a non-partisan local government.
“This must be stated clearly in their manifestos and how they are going to do it to prevent us from coming to where we got to and the thing (referendum) was botched,” Dr Osae said in an interview with the Daily Graphic.
On December 1 last year, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo called off the referendum that was slated for December 17, citing the lack of broad, national consensus among key stakeholders and the populace.
He consequently instructed the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama, who was spearheading the process on behalf of the government 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).
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) had urged voters to vote “No” during the December 17, 2019 national referendum on whether or not the 1992 Constitution should be amended to open up local government elections to partisan participation.
According to the party, a “Yes” vote would further polarise the nation, particularly local communities along the lines of NPP/NDC, and would likely lead to the creation of “NDC Communal Labour Day” and “NPP Communal Labour Day”, as well as “NDC market” and “NPP market”.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) had called on voters to vote “Yes” to pave the way for the amendment of the 1992 Constitution to enable political parties to sponsor candidates for local-level elections.
It said a “Yes” vote was going to strengthen the country’s multi-party democracy consistent with its Constitution, adding that a “Yes” vote was also going to deepen the country’s system of decentralisation by providing a coordinated and organised political system.
Winner takes all
Dr Osae said Ghanaians also lost a brilliant opportunity to reduce the winner-takes-all concept with the failed referendum and also step up the checks and balances that would have prevented the government in power from abusing or misusing the funds at the local level.
That, he said, was because with that, there would be some opposition political parties having chief executives elected, and those chief executives could then put checks on the ruling government.
Dr Osae said the election of the MMDCEs on partisan basis would have been a good opportunity to reduce the powers of the President because “by amending Article 55 (3), it takes away the power of appointing 260 chief executives by the President, and now you give the power to the citizens so that they can elect the chief executives”.
Again, he said Ghanaians lost because the election of the MMDCEs was the last leg of the country’s democracy since the President, Members of Parliament (MPs) and assembly members were elected by the people, asking: “Why is it that chief executives are not elected by the people?”
“The chief executives are the people who bring development at the local level, but these people (chief executives) are always imposed on the people, so local democracy really is not working in Ghana. It can only work if we were to allow the citizens to elect their chief executives on their own and to amend Article 55(3),” he said.
Dr Osae, who is also the UNDP Appointed Technical Advisor at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, said once a person represented the central government, then he/she should be elected on the same basis as the person he/she represented.