The Minister for Regional Reorganisation and Development, Mr. Dan Botwe says he does not support the postponement of the December 17, 2019 referendum on whether or not political parties should be allowed to sponsor candidates in district level elections for it to be organised separately at a later date.
Rather, he prefers that the referendum is withdrawn for it to be organised alongside any future general election so that the cost for the organisation could be minimised since if it was postponed and organised separately, the cost could be huge.
Providing a clarification on his stance on the referendum whilst speaking on Peace FM’s Kookrokoo morning show on Friday [Nov. 22], Mr Botwe said the money to be wasted if it was postponed and organised separately, could be useful in the construction of roads and other pressing national infrastructure.
He said if it was withdrawn from the December 17 District Assembly Elections, the only cost would probably be on the ballot papers.
He said if it was to be postponed and organised separately, it was going to be costly in terms of hiring personnel as polling station officers for the over 30,000 polling stations and also devote resources to the exercise.
This is why Mr. Botwe who is also the Member of Parliament for Okere in the Eastern Regions says he does not support a postponement but a withdrawal.
Withdraw Dec 17 referendum over attacks on Akufo-Addo – Dan Botwe
Mr Botwe said his position is for the referendum to be withdrawn in its entirety and when there is another election in future, it would be added to it.
There is currently a public debate on whether or not the referendum which is to decide on allowing political parties to sponsor candidates in local level elections should be postponed for more public sensitisation before the vote.
This is following the canvassing for a ‘NO’ vote initiated by the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), which hitherto had on consensus with the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) agreed on a ‘YES’ vote campaign and had debated in support of the ‘YES’ vote in Parliament.
However, at a press conference, the NDC argued that introducing political parties into local level elections will further deepen the partisan politics in communities.
Article 55 (3) of the 1992 Constitution, which is an entrenched provision, 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 election to any public office other than the district assemblies or lower local government units”.
President Akufo-Addo has indicated his readiness to offer his power for appointments of MMDCEs under Article 243 (1) to the electorate. That amendment which is not an entrenched provision is currently being considered by Parliament and could be amended by a two-thirds majority.
It is the position of President Akufo-Addo that if MMDCEs were to be elected, then it should be done under the sponsorship of political parties.
However, Article 55(3), an entrenched provision in the 1992 Constitution does not allow political parties to sponsor candidates at local level elections, hence the move for the December 17 referendum.
The amendment under a referendum requires at least a 40 per cent turnout of registered voters, and at least a 75 per cent ‘YES’ vote for the amendment to go ahead. Those canvassing for a ‘NO’ vote requires a less than 40 per cent turn out of registered voters and more than 26 per cent ‘NO’ vote to prevent the amendment.
Dan Botwe’s argument
Mr. Botwe in an earlier radio interview with Accra based Starr FM said: “People are saying it should be postponed and I’m saying why postpone, it should be withdrawn. Why should we spend money on the referendum when there is rains and roads and we cannot make roads. Why should we waste so much money on that?
“It is not a national [priority]. They should leave it since we are reducing cost. Nothing will change if we postpone it,” the former NPP General Secretary told Accra based Starr FM in a radio interview on Thursday.
Attacks on President Akufo-Addo
Making references to attacks on President Akufo-Addo’s person for initiating the move for the election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) on political party sponsorship, Mr Botwe said the persons hurling invectives at the President were doing that on propaganda basis.
Speaking on Oman FM’s Boiling Point radio programme on Thursday night, Mr Botwe said if people will disrespect the President for his intention to deepen Ghana’s democracy by relinquishing his power to appoint MMDCEs to voters, then he would advise the President to cancel the whole referendum.
In his view, calls for the referendum to be postponed to enable more stakeholder consultation are not good enough but a total withdrawal of the referendum is better.
Mr. Botwe reiterated that canceling the entire referendum to maintain the status quo would rather help if the good intentions of the President would stir up controversy.
He argued that the problems of multi-party democracy should not be presented as a justification to stifle democracy.