Government withdraws Constitutional Amendment Bill on December17 referendum

Accra- Government on Monday withdrew from the Parliament of Ghana, a Bill that seeks to okay the impending December 17 referendum to amend Article 55 (3) of the 1992 Constitution and allow political parties to sponsor candidates for district assembly elections.

It also withdrew the proposed amendment of Article 243 (1) of the Constitution to provide for a district chief executive to be elected by universal adult suffrage within a district.

Ms Gloria Akufo, the Attorney General and Minister for Justice withdrew the proposed amendment, on behalf of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who earlier on in a nationwide broadcast ordered the withdrawal on grounds of seeking wider consultations.

Article 55 (3) stipulates 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.”

Article 243 (1) of the 1992 Constitution stipulates that: “There shall be a District Chief Executive for every district who shall 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.”

The otherwise approval of the amendments would end the current constitutional arrangement which empowers the President to appoint MMDCEs.

The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2018 is to amend Article 55 (3) of the 1992 Constitution on the sponsorship of candidates for public office.

First Deputy Speaker and MP for Bekwai Joseph Osei- Owusu, who was in the chair, granted leave for the withdrawal of the amendment of the Bill.

President Akufo in the national broadcast said: It is with deep regret that I have given instructions to the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development to abort the process and see to the withdrawal of the Bills for the amendment of the Constitutions both in respect of Article 243 (1) and Article 55 (3).

Per Article 243 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, 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.

Mr Joseph Dindiok Kpemka, Deputy Attorney-General and Minister of Justice presented the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2018 on behalf of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Ms Gloria Akuffo to the House on May 28, 2019.

On February 20, 2019, the Government had another bill in Parliament to allow for the election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) in the country.

Professor Aaron Oquaye, the Speaker of Parliament had remarked that the Bill, per the constitutional provision, would have to go through a referendum, and that 40 percent of voters should participate in the referendum and 75 percent should vote in favour of the amendment for it to be deemed accepted.

Government set December 17, 2019 for the conduct of Local Assembly elections and the proposed referendum to okay election of the MMDCES, but by the withdrawal of the Constitutional Amendments, only the election of Assembly Members and Unit Committee Members would go ahead on December 17. 2019.

A day after the President had explained the need to abort the process, the Minority, led by its Leader and MP for Tamale South, at a News conference, challenged that the President had no power to direct the withdrawal of the amendments.

He argued that he interfered with the work of the Electoral Commission by calling for the cancellation of the proposed referendum.

Mr Iddrisu agreed with Mr Inusah Fuseini, MP for Tamale Central and a Member of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, who earlier told journalists that once the President started the process, he must go through it for the people to decide.

He said the cancellation was an unacceptable breach of the Constitution and interference in the work of the Electoral Commission.

He said by Article 46b of the Constitution, the President was not the EC,and had no mandate to control the EC or clothed with the power to interfere with its work.

He described President Akufo-Addo’s action as an unacceptable usurpation of the powers of the EC and questioned the basis of the President directing Minister for Local Government and Rural Development to abort the referendum, as it was the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, through whom the bills went to the House.

Mr iddrisu said the engagement was inadequate, insufficient and not exhaustive enough; and the cancellation of the referendum was constitutional lynching of the rule of law.

However, Majority Leader and MP for Suame Constituency Osei Kyei-Mensah- Bonsu at a media conference at which both the Attorney General and Minister for Justice; and Hajia Alima Mahama, the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development were present, argued that the President did no wrong in ordering the cancellation of the referendum.

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said a Minister comes to Parliament on the authority of the President, and the Standing Orders of the Parliament clothes Parliament with the power to amend the Constitution to which a Minister appears before it on the authority of the President.

He went through the process of crafting a law, which he said could be acted upon through amendment, repeal or withdrawal by the sponsor of the bill.

Source: Ghana News Agency