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Opinions of Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Columnist: GIGG/Ghana

District Assembly Elections

Let us all get involved in the district assembly elections
On March 3, 2015, Ghanaian voters will go to the polls to elect assembly members and unit committee members for the various metropolitan, municipal, and district assemblies in accordance with Chapter 22 of the 1992 Constitution – Decentralization and Local Government.

Again, section 241 (3) of the constitution states clearly that, “Subject to this Constitution, a District Assembly shall be the highest political authority in the district, and shall have deliberative, legislative and executive powers”.

So far the Electoral Commission (EC) has done a great job by providing the necessary education and information to voters to participate in this important national exercise. In the run up to the elections the EC has engaged and equipped the media in the various regions through workshops, seminars, and other means to enable the media to create the needed public awareness.

Consequently, the media – FM stations, TV stations, and the print media have so far done their best to whip up the enthusiasm among Ghanaians to take the district assembly elections seriously and turn up in their numbers to cast their vote on March 3.

Obviously, the lackadaisical attitude among voters during district assembly elections calls for a greater commitment on the part of the EC, media, National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE), political parties, religious bodies, traditional leaders, civil society organizations (CSOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) among others to continue to inform, educate, and communicate to voters the importance of participating in local level governance.

The National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) is supposed to among other functions to create and sustain within the society the awareness of the principles and objectives of the Constitution as the fundamental law of the people of Ghana. Therefore, the NCCE needs the support of the government to enable the Commission to carry out its functions as stipulated in the Constitution including educating the people to actively get involved in the local government and decentralization process.

The district assembly structure is the foundation upon which Ghana’s democracy has been built. It is therefore imperative for all well-meaning Ghanaians to support this decentralized political system.

Even though the constitution does not allow any political party to endorse, sponsor, offer a platform to or in any way campaign for or against a candidate seeking election to a District
Assembly or any lower local government unit, political parties have a major role to play to sensitize voters to actively participate in the impending local government elections.

Radio and TV adverts on the district assembly elections urging voters to cast their vote are something worth commending. However, there is one major problem that keeps on happening during general elections in Ghana, and that has been negatively affecting election results. This major problem is the issue of spoiled or rejected ballot papers.

While urging voters to eschew apathy and actively participate in every election in Ghana, including district assembly elections, it is equally important for the media and political parties and other stakeholders to educate the electorate on how to thumb print on ballot papers in order to avoid the situation where large quantity of ballot papers are rejected.

The Ghartey Institute of Good Governance (GIGG) believes that the local government system ensures that communities participate in the local government decision-making process through various methods such as unit committees, and the assembly structure, and also calls for public involvement on issues that affect their livelihood.
In other words, grassroots participation in decentralization and local government process goes beyond just voting but serves to strengthen and deepen democracy.
Again, GIGG acknowledges that grassroots participation in local level governance is important to make sure that government addresses the real needs of communities in the most appropriate way. Participation also helps to build an informed and responsible citizenry with a sense of ownership of government developments and projects. It empowers metropolitan, municipal, and district assemblies to be responsible and develop partnerships with the people.
GIGG wishes to admonish the electorates to reject any vote buying and selling attitude in the district assembly elections in order to protect their power of choosing the right candidates who are of substance. Vote buying and selling come in many guises such as offering and demanding material and monetary gifts to influence the voters.
It is therefore the desire of GIGG to let Ghanaians appreciate the fact that good governance in democracy does not mean political activities by political parties only. Good governance implies that the governors must be accountable to the people, and the people must demand stewardship of elected representatives on issues concerning corruption, security, health, jobs, education, food security, and provision of infrastructure that would make the life of the people worth living.

By Ghartey Institute of Good Governance (GIGG)/Accra, Ghana.