Parliament has approved the withdrawal of two bills intended to amend Articles 243(1) and 55(3) of the Constitution that border on the election of Metropolitan Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) and making local level elections partisan. The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Ms Gloria Akuffo represented the government to withdraw the Bill on the Floor of Parliament on Monday, December 2, 2019.
The withdrawal follows an announcement by President Akufo-Addo on Sunday calling for the cancellation of processes to amend the two constitutional provisions over some major controversies surrounding the amendment process that included a scheduled December 17 referendum. The referendum was to decide on the amendment of Article 55(3) of the Constitution to enable political parties to sponsor candidates for local level elections while the amendment of Article 243(1) was to allow for the election of MMDCEs.
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. The New Patriotic Party (NPP) government commenced processes to have that changed as it promised in its 2016 manifesto to take away the powers of the President to appoint MMDCEs and make it possible to have been elected by universal adult suffrage.
But the process was hit with a major blow when the opposition, National Democratic Congress (NDC) as well as other stakeholders started advocating for a ‘NO’ vote in the referendum. The party argued that it was only worried that an amendment to Article 55 (3) will open district assemblies and unit committees to “the needless NDC-NPP polarisation.” The NDC’s flagbearer, John Mahama also backed his party’s position suggesting that an amendment of Article 243(1) of the constitution was more necessary.
Parliamentarians were divided over the withdrawal of the Bills. The Minority insisted that the President could not simply order the withdrawal of the Bill because it was “not ordinary.” “An extraordinary bill of this nature cannot be removed simply in that process,” the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu said. But the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu said the Bill for the amendment of Article 55(3) could be withdrawn at any stage in Parliament and was constitutional contrary to the views of the Minority.
“Regardless of the process, the Bill for the amendment of Article 55(3) is still here in Parliament and at any stage in the process of passage, the member, in this case, the minister who introduced the Bill in Parliament is clothed with the authority to withdraw and that is what she just cited,” he said.