It is normal procedure, it seems, for candidates for political position, or even politicians advocating some course of action in a referendum, to promise anything to win voters support, and then simply not deliver with no fear of any penalty other than being called a liar, or not being supported on the next issue they will advocate.
There are several legal barriers and many cases that clearly show that it is just not possible to successfully sue a politician for broken promises. That doesn’t seem to stop people trying; but expensive failure is usually the result. Thus, attempts to do so become less and less.
On the face of it, there is something wrong about allowing people to possibly deliberately lie in order to win votes and then simply not deliver on the promise made. But the law should not interfere in politics. Perhaps people just accept it as normal that politicians will promise anything to win votes. In the Philippines they often pay for the votes as well. But such is the accepted way of democracy (except the payment for votes!). It really does on the face of it have some fundamental flaws. It is left to the analytical capacity of the voter to determine whether or not a contender for public office, or some form of political vote, is going to deliver on the promises made. That is an impossibly tall order.
It may be well intentioned to promise in electioneering that, say for example, all government employees will get a 25 percent pay rise. If it turns out that the money is just not available to do that, then reductions need to be made in some other government expenditure, or the pay rise just doesn’t happen and is put down to “yet another election promise.” Everybody shrugs their shoulders and moves on, people generally don’t get too upset—“not enough money; would have liked to have done it, but sorry, can’t.”
If, on the other hand, the whole election campaign is based on fictitious claims and contentions, as happened in the UK referendum about the European Union membership, the people probably have more justification for anger. I see that there are going to be some attempts to sue the leaders of the Brexit campaign. But most likely they will fail as usual.
Interestingly though some research over many years show that most politicians do keep most of their promises, albeit the proportion of promises kept has reduced slightly over time since about 1944. Promises made by politicians and kept show, in the UK, a remarkable rate of 82.5 percent. In the USA the rate overall has been 66.7 percent; but in the case of President Obama, the research found that he has kept 70 percent of the 500 promises made during electioneering. The Philippines was not included in the research. It would be interesting to do a study on promises kept by Filipino politicians.
To my mind there is a big difference between making campaign promises and giving out election “facts” which are either very poorly researched or are just plain deliberately misleading. Alas, the law does not differentiate.
Politicians must keep their promises to maintain their personal credibility. It’s rather telling that the leaders of the UK Brexit campaign have all disappeared since the facts contradicting many of their electioneering statements have been, and continue to be, unearthed and publicized.
So contrary to what most people, including myself, tended to think, politicians do generally try hard to honor the promises that helped get them elected. Could almost restore one’s faith in democracy—perhaps?!
Mike can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.