Election promises are plentiful but most are usually broken.
It is widely known that in countries that follow a presidential or even semi-presidential system, candidates who run for the presidency, or endeavour to win parliamentary seats, often court the public with exaggerated promises. Therefore, candidates who give big binding promises that outweigh their potential usually fail to fulfil them, leading their countries lurching about to realise their ambitious plans.
Exaggerated pledges are an international phenomenon. A notable example of this is election outbidding, when candidates offer pledges aimed at overshadowing their rivals, although knowing full well they will be unable to fulfil most of their campaign promises.
For example, US presidential candidates usually promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or more precisely, carry out the previous decision to transfer. A candidate will declare that he will not sign any decision to defer moving the embassy, but the moment he steps into the White House he puts off the move.
Election pledges vary according to the nature of the country’s political system and how far it has developed, in addition to the scope of the democracy that has been achieved. In authoritarian states and dictatorships that adopt the one-party system and advocate one-man rule, like North Korea, the common practice is to promote the candidate as the inspired leader and the epitome of divine providence so that no one questions his electoral campaign programme.
However, when the reform process is gradually stimulated, the leader then is chosen in elections; a referendum is no more an option. Consequently, the election is managed in a more efficient manner, as the regime’s candidate finds himself obliged to introduce a platform; whether his pledges can be put into effect is beside the point.
Obviously, more attention is given to electoral programmes when the democratic experiment is enhanced, when a real multi-party system is created and state authorities lose their ability to tamper with election results. Candidates study the conditions and needs of their people and offer promises to excess. Each one appeals to a particular sector of society. For instance, one uses religion as a tool, another addresses the middle class, and there are those who approach the marginalised segments of society seeking to win their votes.
During the first stage of an election campaign, a presidential candidate makes promises on an ideological basis in order to satisfy his supporters. The right-wing candidate, for example, makes more promises to the rightists. The same goes for the left-wing electoral candidate with his leftist supporters.
Next, the candidate offers a package of promises to floating voters. Undecided voters are sought after in elections since they can play an important role in determining the outcome.
In the final stage, the candidate seeks to influence the voting bloc of his opponent.
Three stages addressed to three segments of society. A candidate may start with one stage before the other, while another may ignore a specific society sector or in fact criticize it, such as a candidate’s attitude towards political Islam and its supporters.