Decision to Postpone December 17 Referendum in Ghana “good news,” Bishop Says

Representation of Ghana's referendum question. The poll was called off on Sunday, December 1, to be rescheduled at a later date.

Following the December 1 decision by Ghana’s president to call off the referendum scheduled for December 17 in which Ghanaians were to vote on whether to allow or deny Metropolitan Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) participate in local elections based on party affiliations, Catholic Bishops in the West African country have reacted to the move, terming the decision “good news.”

“It’s not only good news but also (good for) the welfare of the country which is very paramount; so if we have a President who listens to the views of the citizens and acts according to their will, then it’s very pleasing,” Vice-President of  Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) Archbishop Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle has been quoted as saying in an interview with an Accra-based FM radio station.

Addressing the nation on Sunday, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo instructed the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Hajia Alima Mahama, who is spearheading the poll to call off process and see to the withdrawal of the bills for the amendment of the Constitution, both in respect to article 243(1) and article 55(3).

According to the Archbishop Palmer-Buckle of Cape Coast, the postponement will allow government agencies to carry out adequate civic education, to allow citizens to make an informed choice when the referendum is rescheduled.

“Before we can undertake such an exercise, there should be extensive education for us to understand; when we get to understand the issues better, we can then make a very informed choice based on knowledge about the subject matter,” the Ghanaian Prelate has said.


He has continued in reference to lack of civil education, “When you critically examine the issue, you can see a lot of people do not understand the issues. So, what we are pleading is that those who are supposed to conduct the education should take the opportunity to explain the matters.”

On November 22, Ghana’s Vice President President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia under the directive of President Akufo-Addo who was outside the country invited the Bishops for a consultative meeting on the way forward concerning the exercise, a forum in which the Prelates appealed to the President to consider calling off the poll.

“Given the current poisoned political environment, we Bishops are appealing to the Government and the Electoral Commission to postpone the referendum since it would not cause any constitutional crisis,” Archbishop Buckle had said and emphasized, “Time is not on our side. We should take the best of decisions that will stand the test of time.”

The Ghanaian Prelate had probed, “Why not postpone it and work around a consensus?” 

In announcing the call off, President Akufo-Addo cited the lack of a broad, national consensus amongst key stakeholders and the populace saying, “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.” 

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“I am convinced that it will not serve the public interest to go ahead with the holding of the Referendum on 17th December, even though I believe a strong campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote would have succeeded,” Ghana’s President said Sunday, December 1 and concluded, “This is not the kind of atmosphere in which the repeal of an entrenched provision of the Constitution should take place.”