Politicians and Broken Promises

Many of us still remember that election campaign punch line popularized by no other than Dubya’s father, George Bush Sr. – “read my lips – no new taxes”. George Bush Sr. sounded so pragmatic and forthcoming but the promise was ultimately broken, perhaps not by convenience but by force of circumstance. This line had since then become symbolic of the politician’s ignominy, that penchant for promising reforms and changes beyond known limits in order to gain votes and the proverbial indifference and lack of accountability to failed promises.

How can politicians be held accountable for their promises? Interestingly, during the 1993 Canadian parliamentary election, a Liberal stalwart seeking re-election by the name of Sheila Copps went above and beyond her party’s agenda to rescind the dreaded GST (Goods and Services Tax). Her election promise to her constituents was she will resign if the GST wasn’t rescinded and she won. In 1996 the GST was still around, so her political opponents literally took her promise to the bank and demanded her to resign and she did out of delicadeza, declaring her riding of Hamilton East vacant, forcing a by-election! Copps resigned her positions of Member of Parliament and Minister of Canadian Heritage and ran another grueling campaign for the by-election (snap election). The short end of the story is Copps won again wasting some $450,000 of taxpayers’ money for the election expenses.

In the nationally televised leader’s debate in French two weeks before Christmas ( a subsequent debate was held in English), the leaders of the 4 major Canadian political parties were asked by a Quebec woman the question – “do you swear by the Holy Bible that you will fulfill your election promises?” Unfortunately the question was pre-planned and the candidates had prior knowledge of the question. As expected, each candidate avoided replying a direct yes or no and answered with a carefully crafted and politically sensitive reply leaving the listener the chore of reading between the lines. The woman’s question was in fact an expression of the public’s extreme frustration over the notoriety of the politician’s lack of sincerity and accountability to election promises. The public may distrust politicians to the bone but the sad fact is the election will have to happen on Jan 23rd and politicians will have to be elected.


So the cycle of politicians coming and going along with the stigma of their failed promises continues unabated like a pendulum. Since all politicians are of the same ilk – manipulative and untrustworthy, the public is at the end of the day confronted with the choice of the devil and the deep blue sea. If there is one consolation to the public, it is the fact that politicians run for re-election. True, replacing a politician is risky business but there’s a saying that says – “you can be deceived if you trust too much but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough”. The people aren’t blind fools either. There are events like 911, SARS outbreak, oil crisis that can negatively influence the business of governing and people will understand if certain goals are not met but they know politicians who break promises out of convenience, pointing all the blame to their predecessors, especially if they happen to be of a different political stripe.

On a different note, I have always wondered why the Philippine president’s term is set to a single term of 6 years, not allowing for a re-election. Why worry about performance and achievement when you’re out of the door after 6 years anyways? Where is the incentive to perform and get re-elected for another term? Is there some sinister conspiracy theory lurking in the background here that smacks of a license to pillage? After all, it was the assembly politicians that concocted this formula.

Quoting Henry Ford – “you can’t build a reputation on what you plan to do”. Politicians are truly a unique breed because they appear to be the complete anti-thesis to the wisdom of this quote yet succeed in what they do.

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4 Responses

  1. It is indeed rare to see a politician,or any would be politician(especially in this country)to live up to his/her promises during election campaigns.Really,it’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t kinda situation.

    Did those loyal fans of FPJ really believe he will live up to his promises had he won?

  2. Know what, the people rate politicians by the number of promises they fulfill and if they try their darnest best to fulfill the major ones, they’d get reelected. What I hate is when politicians wait for election time to make reforms. Case in point the Canadian Prime Minister is now saying he’d scrap the C$975.00 landing fee charged to every immigrant if his Liberal party gets re-elected . This is really bull because it was his party that instituted this exorbitant fee in the first place. When I came to Canada, 15 years ago families were charged only C$102 as application fee – that’s all. Today it is C$500 for the family application fee plus C$975.00 landing fee for every person. Clearly the PM is trying to score points and buying votes from the large immigrant community. It is a powerful suggestion because folks who have family to petition and new applicants would benefit a lot. But the question is – is this really all you care about in the election?

    As for FPJ ( God bless is soul) we all know that the was just a dummy for the political sharks that wanted more piece of the pie. Sadly many Pinoys don’t even give a hoot about agendas and platforms anymore. They’re more on who they like because he’s pogi, maawain sa mahihirap , ka-probinsya, etc.. which is tragic.

  3. an honest politician is a rarity. I’ve never voted without anticiapting some disappointment…

  4. Well said Irrealis. Same here. But they say elections is good because it is the one time that people think about their country.

    I guess no one really trusts politicians anymore but’s funny how the public submits to the grand delusion of politics. Politics had increasingly become a one issue affair to most people nowadays. I hear one guy say he doesn’t care what politicians do as long as they rescind the gay marriage bill it’s fine with him.

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