Calling-off referendum an abuse of power-ILAPI

Policy think tank Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation (ILAPI) has reacted to the decision by President Akufo-Addo to call-off the referendum.

The policy think tank has argued that the cancellation is unconstitutional and interference in the work of the Electoral Commission of Ghana.

Executive Director of the think tank in a statement said: ”When the process passes stage 7, I am not sure it within the control of the President to cancel the referendum. The issue is now in a constitutionally established officer who is also independent. Therefore, the cancellation of the referendum can be said to be interference of the work of the Electoral Commissioner. It is important that constitutionalism is uphold in the exercise of power; a guide against unlimited wield of power.”

He premised his argument on constitutional provisions i.e article 290(2) through to 290(6).

The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has called off the holding of the Referendum of 17th December, 2019, citing the lack of a broad, national consensus amongst key stakeholders and the populace.

President Akufo-Addo has, thus, instructed the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Hajia Alima Mahama, MP, who is spearheading the process, on behalf of government, to abort the process, and see to the withdrawal of the bills for the amendment of the Constitution, both in respect of article 243(1) and article 55(3).
 
Addressing the nation on Sunday, 1st December, 2019, the President indicated the attainment of a broad consensus, for him, on a matter as important as the amendment of an entrenched provision of the Constitution, is critical.
 
“I do not believe that such an amendment should be driven as a party matter. There has to be a clear national consensus and agreement amongst the populace that a particular entrenched provision no longer serves the interest of the people, and, thus, has to be removed,” he said.
 
He continued, “In this case, it had been long apparent that political parties were, in fact, actively involved in district assembly elections, despite their apparently non-partisan nature. The time had come to strip the process of its hypocrisy, and accept and work with the reality of party involvement.”

Read the full statement below

It is Wrong to Nix the Referendum

Finally, it has been realized that the referendum for article 55(3) was a waste of time. The interest of the people is to vote for MMDCEs thus article 243(1) and not about whether political parties should sponsor MMDCEs in an election. This is because, article 243(1) is not an entrenched provision and the question to allow MMDCEs to be voted for can be answered by parliament at no extra-cost for referendum whatsoever.

The second issue is whether the Executive can cancel the referendum…. the constitution provides process of amending an entrenched provision but its silent on whether the process can be cancelled. The process is as follows as grounded in article 290(2) through to 290(6):

1.The Bill is published in the gazette.
2. Six months subsequent to the “gazetting,” the bill is introduced in Parliament.
3. The Speaker refers the bill to Council of State for advice.
4. The Council must advice within 30 days.
5. The bill is read for the first time in Parliament.
6. The matter is referred to the Electoral Commissioner (EC) to hold a referendum.
7. The Electoral Commissioner publishes a CI establishing the modalities of the referendum.
8. The referendum is held.
9. The referendum results are declared. It is critical for at least 40% to turnout to vote and 75% must be in favour for the bill to pass; a precondition for the bill to fail if not achieved.
10. If the bill passes, Parliament shall approve it and the President shall assent to it.

When the process passes stage 7, I am not sure it within the control of the President to cancel the referendum. The issue is now in a constitutionally established officer who is also independent. Therefore, the cancellation of the referendum can be said to be interference of the work of the Electoral Commissioner. It is important that constitutionalism is uphold in the exercise of power; a guide against unlimited wield of power.

Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation
Tema
Ghana

By: Rashid Obodai Provencal

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