The average voter turnout in the last seven local government elections stands at 39 per cent as against the required 40 per cent registered voter participation recognised by the Constitution of Ghana.In a survey conducted by the ILGS, which sampled 6,494 registered voters out of 16,845,364 from Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in all the 16 regions in the country, a total of 4,358 voters expressed interest in participating in the upcoming elections.
The survey, which was carried out from November 6 to 11, 2019, sampled opinions of registered voters in six metropolitan, 18 municipal and 20 district assemblies.
It was conducted to measure the level of voter awareness of the referendum, their willingness to participate in it, whether they would vote 'Yes' or 'No and whether their preference would be shaped by age, sex, education, employment status and geographical location.
The survey projected that the December 17, 2019 elections, which requires 75 per cent votes in favour of 'Yes', 3,245 registered voters out of a sample size of 6,494 would vote 'YES' for the amendment of Article 55 (3) of the 1992 constitution.
The subject matter for the referendum would be for an amendment of Article 55 (3) to allow political parties to participate in district and local elections.
Article 55 (3) states 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”.
Dubbed “Ghana speaks on the upcoming referendum,” the report found out that 66 per cent of the registered voters or respondents said they were aware of the referendum, 54 per cent could explain that the referendum was about amendment of Article 55 (3) of the Constitution, 43 per cent of the respondents misconstrued the referendum to mean the election of the metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs), while three per cent of them had no idea what the referendum was about.
Sharing the findings with journalists, the Director of the ILGS, Dr Nicholas Awortwi, said what the study found worrying was that the youth, aged between 18 and 30, had the lowest awareness of the upcoming elections, while the middle-aged group between 41 and 60 years had the highest awareness.
“Awareness of the referendum is high among people with tertiary education of 81 per cent and 54 per cent among voters with no education,” he stated.
According to the findings of the report, explaining the essence of the referendum without linking it to the election of MMDCEs would be a challenge to campaigners, since the voters sampled perceived the two as being inter-related.
Dr Awortwi noted that the constitutional amendment of Article 55 (3) could not be answered without reference to the election of MMDCEs and assembly members in the political system.
“It is, therefore, not surprising that 43 per cent of the respondents misconstrued the referendum to mean the election of MMDCEs, assembly and unit committee members,” he stated.
Dr Awortwi stated: “As of last week when we completed the study, ‘NO’ vote did not stand any chance of winning but the threshold of 75 per cent that indicated ‘YES’ would demand massive campaign to make that a reality.”
He further mentioned that since the study was completed a day before the National Democratic Congress (NDC) officially declared its preference for a ‘NO’ vote and two days after the National House of Chiefs also issued a press statement which called for the rejection of the proposed amendment, such pronouncements were likely to affect the outcome of the referendum as indicated by the survey.
“The ILGS is considering asking the same respondents again in two weeks if they will change their opinions now that the NDC and the National House of Chiefs have opted for a ‘NO’ vote,” he added.