Ghana likely to go for referendum on District Chief Executive election proposals

Ghanaians could be heading to the polls before 2019 to decide if the election of District Chief Executives is to be partisan or non-partisan.

Deputy Local Government minister Osei Bonsu Amoah told Multi TV’s AM Show Friday, a committee has been tasked to start a nationwide tour on which of the two options to choose.

The decision to make the position of District Chief Executive elective is part of the NPP government’s campaign promises.

The government has set September 2019 deadline for the realization of the campaign promise.

Osei Bonsu Amoah stressed the question for government remains whether the elections should be partisan or otherwise.

“If the people of Ghana want the Chief Executives to be elected in a partisan way then it means we should draw a programme for a referendum because the provision on the assemblies being nonpartisan is entrenched”.

According to section 7, subsection 1 of Act 462, ‘a candidate seeking election to a District Assembly or to a lower local government unit shall personally appear before the electorate as an individual, and shall not use a symbol associated with a political party.’

Section 7, subsection 2 of Act 462 unequivocally cautions, inter alia: ‘a political party shall not endorse, sponsor, offer a platform to or in any other way campaign for or against a candidate seeking election to a District Assembly or to a lower local government unit’.

In the case of a referendum, a voter turn-out of t least 40%  of the electorates is needed with at least 70% of the votes endorsing a partisan local government system.

Alternatively, he says, if the option is non-partisan then a straight forward parliamentary process is needed to effect changes in the system of local government.

The Akuapim South MP explained that the ballot paper for local government elections will have unit committee members, assembly members and the latest addition, the DCE.

It will mean Ghanaians now vote for five public office holders – unit committee members, an assemblyman, a DCE, an MP and a president.

While Ghana’s laws forbid partisanship in local government elections, the flouting of the law is an open secret.

Political parties mainly the NPP and NDC provide covert support for their candidates in District Assembly elections in order to maintain a hold in an area’s grassroot politics.

Proponents of a partisan local government system argue that it extremely impossible to adhere to the neutrality principles because ‘man is a political animal’.

Defenders of the status quo say the non-partisan method of electing officers to local governments fosters communal unity and cohesion.

Meanwhile, about 200 Chief Executives across the country are set to take part in a 5-day induction programme beginning next Monday.

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development expects to take the chief executives through the new local government act passed last year.

Deputy Local Government Minister Osei Bonsu Amoah also expects the chief executives to share challenges they have experienced barely two months on the job.

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