Representatives of some civil society organisations (CSOs) have shared their views on the impending referendum, saying a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote will have implications for accountability, inclusive governance and accelerated development at the local level.
Some were of the view that a ‘Yes’ vote would help end the winner-takes-all system by promoting inclusive governance while others believed that a ‘No’ vote would further encourage corruption as avenues for accountability would be lost.
These came to light at a forum dubbed: “Northern Ghana meets on Referendum – 2019” to discuss the impact of a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote on the country’s democracy, decentralisation drive, financial sustenance of the assemblies and quality of service delivery.
It was organised in Tamale by NORSAAC, a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), as part of its project dubbed; “Referendum We Want,” which is funded by STAR Ghana Foundation to influence national level discourse and actions using evidence from the north.
It was attended by traditional authorities, representatives of CSOs, state institutions, media practitioners, youth groups, and political parties drawn from the five regions in the northern part of the country; the Upper East, Upper West, Northern, North East and Savannah.
The country will go for a referendum on December 17, this year, to consider a proposal to amend Article 55(3) of the 1992 Constitution, which is an entrenched clause, to allow political parties to participate in local governance elections.
Article 243(1) of the 1992 Constitution, which is a non-entrenched clause, will also be amended by Parliament to allow for election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs).
If the citizenry approve the proposal through the referendum, then from the year 2021, MMDCEs will no longer be nominated by the President but rather be directly elected by the citizenry on political party lines.
Mr Kwesi Jonah, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Democratic Governance, who spoke on the implications of a ‘Yes’ vote, said election of MMDCEs on partisan basis would promote accountability as the officials would be answerable to the people at the local level.
He said it would bring about competition among political parties to improve on the conditions of the people such that they would continue to vote for them.
He said the assemblies would also find innovative ways to generate more resources to develop their areas as they could no longer depend on the District Assemblies Common Fund alone for their development activities.
Mrs Linda Ofori-Kwafo, the Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative, who spoke on the implications of a ‘No’ vote, said the winner-takes-all system, which did not promote inclusive governance, would continue and would ultimately affect the performance of local governments.
Alhaji Alhassan Mohammed Awal, the Executive Director of NORSAAC, expressed the hope that the forum would help the citizenry to make informed choices during the referendum in December.
Mr Salifu Saeed, the Northern Regional Minister, whose speech was read on his behalf, commended CSOs for sensitising the public on the referendum, saying it would help inform them better on related issues.