The National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) has rejected claims that it has done a poor job in educating the public on the upcoming referendum on December 17, 2019.
This comes after the Afrobarometer report released by the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) – Ghana stated that only a few Ghanaians know about the upcoming referendum, leaving more than half of the public with no knowledge about the upcoming exercise.
Noting that the survey was conducted within a period where the Commission had actually not begun intensified education on the referendum due to lack of funding, the Chairperson of the NCCE, Josephine Nkrumah stated that there will be better results if another survey is conducted now.
“It’s important firstly to stress that the afrobarometer survey was carried out from the 16th of September to the 3rd of October. NCCE began some engagement towards the district level elections prior to those dates but at that time we didn’t have any funding to support the kind of intensified education that we would need to raise awareness around this.”
“But on September 17, with the support of the Ministry of Local Government, we launched our education and awareness creation campaign and since then, we have intensified our education. I dare say that if we conduct another survey today we would have a different finding,” she insisted.
The NCCE had earlier expressed disappointment over some “misinformation” in the media alleging that the upcoming December 17 national referendum is to elect MMDCEs.
The Commission clarified that the referendum is only to vote on the proposed amendment to allow political parties to participate in the District Level Elections.
“The Commission wishes to clarify that the 2019 National Referendum is to enable citizens to vote on the proposed amendment of Article 55(3) of the 1992 Constitution that currently bars political parties from participating in District Level Elections (DLEs), the proposed amendment is to introduce multi-party participation in the Local Government System in Ghana,” NCCE said in a statement.
It said the false information might cause confusion on the day of the election and urged the media to help educate the public correctly.
Meanwhile, there are matters arising on the upcoming referendum as various groups and leaders are sharing contrasting views on the effects the election of MMDCEs would have on the country.
A local government analyst, George Kyei Baffour had admonished Ghanaians to vote YES in the upcoming December 17th Referendum as he believes will increase accountability at the local level.
According to him, the YES vote which is geared towards accomplishing a constitutional mandate will ensure greater participation of the citizenry in the decision-making process for good governance.
However, Tony Dogbe who is a social development facilitator has cautioned that the election of MMDCEs on a partisan basis will result in more political mess.
He said the move will lead to abuse of power at the local level, just as it happens at the national level and hence deepen corruption at the assemblies
The Electoral Commission (EC) has scheduled December 17, 2019, to conduct a referendum to approve the bill to amend Clause 3 of Article 55 of the 1992 Constitution.
This bill when passed will allow political parties to fund candidates for election to district assemblies and lower local government units.
NDC campaigns for No vote
The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is also campaigning against the referendum.
The party had argued that there will be party-motivated projects and programmes such as ‘NDC Communal Labour Day’ and ‘NPP Communal Labour Day’ particularly in rural areas if District Assembly elections are made partisan.
National Chairman of the NDC, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo at a press conference on Tuesday said a YES vote, will open district assemblies and unit committees to “the needless NDC-NPP polarization”.
He therefore asked Ghanaians to vote against the proposal.
“At the meeting held last Thursday, the NEC of the NDC affirmed our long-held position that MMDCEs should be elected. We, however, took the view that the local government system should remain non-partisan and that individuals 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. It is our well-considered view, and indeed that of well-meaning Ghanaians, that the needless NDC-NPP polarization at the national level should not be extended into the District Assemblies and Unit Committees, which is what will happen if we vote to make the local government system partisan.”
There are two bills currently in Parliament seeking amendments to Articles 243(1) and 55(3) for the election of MMDCEs and introduction of political party participation in the local elections.
At the moment, the law, in Article 243 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, says District Chief Executives for every district are to be appointed by the President with the prior approval of not less than two-thirds majority of members of the assembly present and voting at the meeting.
Article 55 (3) states that “subject to the provisions of this article, a political party is free to participate in shaping the political will of the people, to disseminate information on political ideas, social and economic programmes of a national character and sponsor candidates for elections to any public office other than to District Assemblies or lower local government units.’’
The referendum has become necessary because Article 55 is an entrenched provision of the Constitution and therefore can only be amended through a referendum.