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Politicians love making promises during election campaigns, often with explicit deadlines on when said promise would come to fruition. But are there examples in recent history where a politician (or even an entire party) has resigned after failing to fulfill their electoral promise? To clarify I'm looking for examples where:

  • A specific, verifiable promise was made by a politician or political party. Something like "Our GDP will double in 5 years!"
  • The promise failed to materialize
  • The politician/party in question announced that they're resigning due to failing to keep up their promise
  • The resignation was not due to external factors beyond the control of said politician. I.e. claiming to resign for breaking ones promise after having lost the latest election doesn't count.

Is this a crazy concept or did this actually happen in history?

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5 Answers 5

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That is so rare in reality as to be comparable to a fairy tale.

However, one of these incredibly rare examples would be a recent Japanese Prime Minister:

On 2 June 2010, Hatoyama announced his resignation as Prime Minister before a meeting of the Japanese Democratic Party. He cited breaking a campaign promise to close an American military base on the island of Okinawa as the main reason for the move.

If that amount of responsibility and decency sounds to good to be true, the paragraph on Wikipedia continues:

He also mentioned money scandals involving a top party leader, Ichirō Ozawa, who resigned as well, in his decision to step down. Hatoyama had been pressed to leave by members of his party after doing poorly in polls in anticipation of an upper house election in July 2010.

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    I am not surprised there is a Japanese example here. I didn't know of any specific examples, but it'd have been the first place I would go to look for one.
    – Bobson
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 17:28
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    @Bobson Although in this case it seems like they used the unfulfilled promise as a way to spin it somewhat favorably, to minimize the scandals.
    – Barmar
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 14:59
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It happened in Canada in 1996, when cabinet minister Sheila Copps (Environment and Deputy PM) resigned over the failure of her party's government to 'scrap' the then-reviled Goods and Services Tax (GST), brought in by the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney in 1991.

The Liberals took power in 1993 and in a town hall event during that election campaign — of which the tax was a contentious issue — Copps had committed to resigning if the Liberals did not abolish the tax. By 1996 however, the government had decided in favour of accommodating the GST and against scrapping it. Finance Minister Paul Martin made a public statement to this effect, prompting people in Copps' riding to question both her position and pledge.

After some silliness, Copps took the plunge and on May 1, resigned as member of parliament (MP) for her riding of Hamilton East. On the same day, crafty Prime Minister Jean Chretien called a by-election, which took place on June 17. Copps won handily (albeit with 46% of the vote, less than the 67% she took in the '93 general election). After her return to government, she was appointed to the newly created position of Minister of Canadian Heritage.

CBC: The GST, a broken promise and a lot of drama for Sheila Copps

NB Another Liberal MP, John Nunziata, voted against the government's subsequent budget and was expelled from caucus. Technically, this wasn't a resignation but effectually, he resigned from his party and thus a seat in the government.

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    BTW, "writ" and "riding" in this context are not terms I expect non-Canadians to be familiar with (although their meaning can be derived from context). Commented May 26, 2021 at 23:57
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    @Mockman: As a Brit, I had to read over several times to figure out what “dropped the writ” meant. We don’t use writ colloquially in that kind of way in Britain. Commented May 27, 2021 at 10:31
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    @JonathanReez Not contesting your tick-choice: is this a "true" one? Being forced/pressured by others to finally resign, and then immediately stand again? The timespan alone from 'efforts to abolish GST failed' to 'stepped down' seems rather large? Commented May 27, 2021 at 13:25
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    @LаngLаngС they let the voters decide their fate again and they could've booted her out for failing on her promise. That's the important part. Commented May 27, 2021 at 16:53
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    @RBarryYoung - Substitute "district" for "riding" and it should make sense.
    – Bobson
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 17:32
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Alex Salmond was the leader of the Scottish National Party, whose main purpose for generations, has been to secure Independence for Scotland. In 2014, there was a referendum on this subject, but the Yes vote (for Indy) was defeated.

Having failed to deliver Independence, Salmond resigned his position as party leader.

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  • @JonathanReez Thanks for the comment - I just realised I had made it sound like his mission was to obtain a referendum. It wasn't - it was to obtain Independence. I've re-written to make it clearer. Commented May 27, 2021 at 13:59
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Cameron promised to keep the UK in the EU. When he lost the referendum he resigned.

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    didn't May also resign after the Brexit deals repeatedly didn't go through?
    – ilkkachu
    Commented May 26, 2021 at 17:28
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    Keeping Britain in the EU wasn’t exactly a manifesto commitment though, was it? Holding a referendum was, and he delivered on that.
    – eggyal
    Commented May 26, 2021 at 18:39
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    I think his promise was to hold a referendum and to fight to stay in the EU, both of which he did. I believe his promise was to support staying in the EU, not necessarily the promise to win which would be out of his control as it is up to the voting public.
    – Ambo100
    Commented May 26, 2021 at 21:47
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    @Ambo100: Indeed, his promise was to respect the result of the referendum whatever it might be.
    – eggyal
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 7:15
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    In the run-up to the referendum, Cameron made specific promises to not resign as Prime Minister if the result was "leave": theguardian.com/politics/2016/jan/10/… Granted, these may have been tactical (to not turn the vote into a referendum on him) and the extent to which anyone believed them is debatable.
    – flahr
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 9:33
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I did.

It was about as small of a political position as one could hold, but it was an official elected position.

I ran for a position in which I would be an equal member of a board consisting of 5 persons.

One of the planks of my campaign platform was to create an open system where voters would have access to all matters that need not be kept confidential by any reasonable standard.

Upon assuming my position on the elected board, I learned of the great corruption that had been ongoing for years. None of the other members of the board, who were all in collusion with each other, were willing to support me in fulfilling my promise to our electorate to open the records for public review. As such, I resigned.

It was a horribly stressful experience (I chose to engage in psychological therapy to help manage the stress), but I learned much about politics and the type of people that are often attracted to such positions. I learned that politics can definitely attract good people, but without an open and transparent system, it tends to attract people that use their elected powers for personal, and often petty, gain.

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    There are probably plenty of examples from the lower ranks of politics, where idealists sometimes manage to get elected. The OP should clarify that he's talking about national or local politics, the level of career politicians.
    – Tom
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 12:22

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