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The Normative Force of Electoral Promises


  • Andreas Schedler


At elections, voters choose among substantive programs and correspondingly, endow winning parties with determinate policy mandates. The article inquires into a neglected side of this `mandate theory' of elections: it explores the normative foundations of democratic mandates. The general norm, which demands that parties honor their campaign promises, is quite uncontroversial. The essay therefore reconstructs the controversial logic of norm application: it argues that different kinds of promises create different kinds of commitments; it explains `rules of transgression' which specify improper promises and `rules of exception' which allow parties to abandon their campaign pledges; and it looks at structural uncertainties electoral mandates are associated with. As the article concludes, electoral accountability is a complex and `essentially contested' task. It provokes (and presupposes) public controversies which in the last instance can be settled only by the supreme judge, the voter.

Suggested Citation

  • Andreas Schedler, 1998. "The Normative Force of Electoral Promises," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 10(2), pages 191-214, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jothpo:v:10:y:1998:i:2:p:191-214
    DOI: 10.1177/0951692898010002003

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. E Goulas & C Kallandranis & A Zervoyianni, 2019. "Voting Behaviour and the Economy: Evidence from Greece," Economic Issues Journal Articles, Economic Issues, vol. 24(1), pages 35-58, March.

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