A mock referendum conducted on participants of the 70th Annual New Year School (ANYS) at the closing ceremony has resulted in an overwhelming “yes” vote for the election of municipal, metropolitan and district chief executives (MMDCEs).
The mock referendum was to gauge the views of participants on the issue of the election of MMDCEs after discussions on the subject and about 88 per cent of them voted “yes” to the question on whether Article 55 (3) of the Constitution, which bans partisan politics at the local level, should be amended to enable the election of local authorities on partisan basis; 26 per cent voted “no,” with only one spoilt ballot.
The voting was after an open forum on ‘Decentralisation: challenges and prospects’ that had the Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Mr O. B. Amoah, in part moderating, and in part, letting participants in on preparations so far by the ministry on the government’s policy to elect MMDCEs to make them more accountable to the people, among other benefits.
He said for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) the commitment had been made during the campaigning and was being carried through currently.
Mr Amoah thanked participants for being part of the forum and charged them to sensitise people in their communities and at their workplaces to what they had learnt, for a smooth process in the course of the year at the referendum.
Mr Amoah said the doors of the ministry were always open for further engagements on the issue as the vision to make decentralisation work was an ongoing process that would require the collaborative efforts of all.
Seize the opportunity
Another panellist of the forum, Dr Eric Oduro Osae, who is the Dean of Studies and Research at the Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS), said electing MMDCEs would ensure security of tenure of the position, with no interference from an appointing person, while the people could use provisions in the laws to sack a non-performing MMDCE.
He said the power being given under the new dispensation to citizens was to make MMDCEs accountable to them and that would result in real decentralisation.
Dr Osae explained that the referendum that was to take place in the course of the year was to amend Article 55(3) of the 1992 Constitution, which bans partisan politics in local level elections, for MMDCEs to be elected in a partisan manner.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let us grab the opportunity with two hands and vote ‘yes’,” he said.
The Head of the Local Government Service, Dr Nana Ato Arthur, said the essence of decentralisation was for development.
He said the “winner-takes-all” syndrome in the country’s politics would be minimised with the election of MMDCEs, as there would be varied people elected at the local level, who might not be in the same party as the President and vice versa.
He said that would spread out power and influence and make democracy stronger in Ghana.
Participants wanted clarification on groups generally excluded from politics, such as women, with the new vision of the election of the MMDCEs, among several other issues.
Collaborate on proposals
In his closing remarks, the Acting Provost and Dean of the School of Continuing and Distance Education, of the University of Ghana Professor Michael Tagoe, said the school would liaise with all its partners to ensure that proposals were carried through in the course of the year.
He said they would also liaise with the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) to ensure the sensitisation of all on the impending referendum.
In total, about 450 participants attended the 70th ANYS from statistics generated by the organisers, with 315 paid-up and registered people.