From Iceland — Voters Could Sue For Broken Campaign Promises

Voters Could Sue For Broken Campaign Promises

Published September 17, 2013

A Supreme Court lawyer believes that voters could conceivably take politicians to court who break their campaign promises.
Sigríður Rut Júlíusdóttir, a lawyer for the Supreme Court, wrote a column in the latest issue of Kjarninn in which she discusses one of the ruling coalition’s most significant campaign promises: to reduce household debt. She contends that such a promise implies a “reasonable expectation”, in the legal sense, that this debt will be reduced.
“In other words, a promise from the government that is directed at specific parties about specific corrections gives those parties an exclusive right to justifiable expectations that this promise will be fulfilled,” she writes in part. If a court agrees with this interpretation, she argues, this gives those voters affected by the promise a legally protected right to have those expectations met.
“If the promise is considered clear and specific enough to create a reasonable expectation, then the government cannot pull back from putting those debt corrections into practice without paying full damages for the debt it promised to reduce,” she adds.
However, one of the largest complaints about the ruling coalition’s promise to reduce household debt has been its vagueness. Grétar Jónasson, the managing director of the Real Estate Agents Society of Iceland, told DV last summer, “It is important that the government speaks plainly about what they intend to do. Uncertainty is always bad. Uncertainty has an effect on the real estate market and cools it. The people ought to know precisely what the government intends to do.”
That said, Sigríður’s reasoning is not without precedent. Earlier this month, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to fight his ouster from parliament, citing the fact that to do so would mean violating the “the legitimate expectation of voters that he remain in office for the remainder of the legislature.”

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