Dr Kwesi Jonah, a Senior Research Fellow of the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), Monday said the President had consultations with key stakeholders to elicit their opinions before announcing the decision to call off the December 17 Referendum.
They included representatives of civil society organisations, religious bodies and Chiefs.
Speaking to the Ghana News Agency in an interview on the issue, Dr Jonah said it was clear at the meeting that there was a weak national consensus on the issue, therefore, it was prudent for the Government to cancel it to allow for a much broader discussion on the issue.
Even though money had been spent to educate the citizenry on the Referendum, the senior lecturer in Political Science said, the ballot paper could still be used in the future because no date had been printed on it.
However, the country had missed the opportunity to reform its democratic governance by electing Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCES) because of the internal wrangling among political parties and section of the populace, he stated.
“I was not disappointed with the President’s decision because we need a national consensus for the amendment of Article 243(1) and Article 55(3) of the Constitution to be fully operational,” he explained.
The amendment of Article 243(1) of the 1992 Constitution as planned would have allowed for the election of MMDCES.
This requires the assent of two-thirds of the Members of Parliament, while the Referendum on Article 55(3) would have decided whether political parties should be allowed to participate in local government elections or not.
Dr Jonah said it would have been difficult to get the required approval of two-thirds of the Members of Parliament to amend article 243(1), without the approval of the Minority.
President Akufo-Addo, on Sunday, December one, in a national televised address, said he had directed Hajia Alima Mahama, the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development to abort the processes and withdraw the two Bills before Parliament.
He explained that he assumed office nearly three years ago, with the firm conviction emanating from the campaign and national discussions, that there was a national consensus for the two amendments to the country’s governance system, which would enhance its effectiveness and accountability.
Therefore, on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, he had a meeting with his predecessors: Former Presidents Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor, and John Dramani Mahama, at Jubilee House, to seek their views and counsel on the referendum issues.
There was a consensus among them to elect MMDCES, the President said.
President Akufo-Addo said, therefore, he was surprised that the main opposition party, the NDC, made a U-turn, and said the party was no longer prepared to go along with the national consensus, indicating that they will actively campaign for a ‘No’ vote.
The New Patriotic Party, the National Democratic Party and the Progressive People’s Party in their 2016 manifestos pledged to initiate the necessary actions to ensure the election of MMDCES.
But about two months ago, national opinion on the issue became divided, with a section calling for the suspension of the process to ensure broader consultation for consensus, another called for the truncation of the process, stating multiparty politics in local government would further polarise the nation.
Another school of thought called for the process to go through, arguing that it would cure the ‘winner takes all’ system, which often distress the minority political parties; and also deepen democracy and good governance.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the NDC has said it would issue a press statement on their position of the President’s decision.