What is common between Donald Trump, David Cameron and K. P. Oli? They have all created false hopes for the people in their respective countries.
Trump, the frontrunner in the Republican primaries for presidential nomination, has promised that, if he is elected president of the United States, he would make his country great again. He would build a wall between his country and Mexico, force Mexico to finance the wall, stop Muslim migrants from entering his country at least temporarily, and use American military power to discipline nations around the world that do not fall into line.
David Cameron, the British prime minister, has proclaimed victory in his negotiations with the European Union and called a referendum on 23 June 2016. The agreement allows Britain to stay out of the ever-closer-union plan and the euro, slam the emergency brake on in-work benefits for migrants for four years, and opt out of any EU regulation if 55 percent of member states agree. In the referendum, the British will decide whether they wish to remain within the reformed union or quit. He has been campaigning for the first option.
Similarly, K. P. Oli, the prime minister of Nepal, has made several promises. He has pledged to normalize the frayed country after the 5-month long Indian economic blockade, to complete the reconstruction of houses and infrastructures damaged and destroyed by the devastating 2015 earthquakes, and to remove intermittent blackout and brown-outs, and to replace the single-rope river crossings with proper suspension bridges within two years.
Neither of the three is likely to deliver on their promises. These promises are either incredibly impossible or deplorably impractical to keep.
Let us start with Trump. He has a long way to reach the White House. His party is trying its level best to thwart him in the primaries and to make his nomination difficult. If he is nominated by his party, he will have to defeat the Democratic competitor, most likely Hillary Clinton, which will be uphill, given that opinion polls consistently place Clinton ahead of Trump by several points. Even if he is elected, Trump will not have the resources to build the wall between his country and Mexico, and Mexico will not spend a penny on the wall.
Cameron painted himself in the corner by calling the referendum to prevent the Tory members from defecting to the Eurosceptic UK Independence Party. Those who support Britain’s exit from the European Union, including several of his own cabinet members, have slammed that Cameron’s concessions mean little substantively. They are essentially correct. If the UK decides to remain in the EU, it would be owing to the opposition party, Labor, supporting it, not owing to Cameron’s negotiations. If Cameron loses the referendum, which he may, his party is eager to push him out of 10 Downing Street.
Oli has a shaky coalition to last in government for much and has no resources to deliver on his promises. Besides, though India officially lifted its embargo before Oli’s visit to New Delhi from 20 February 2016, the supply of petroleum products on which Nepal depends remains irregular and precarious, not smooth. His government will have difficulty surviving if India imposes another blockade.
What is more, India seems to have cautioned Oli not to sign any agreements with China that would adversely affect its interests, which includes commercial deals as well, during his impending trip to Beijing. If Oli heeds New Delhi’s advice, Nepal would lose trust of Beijing that is already frayed and its unhelpful dependence on India for petroleum products will continue, helping India bring its neighbor to the north to its knees whenever it so desires. In addition, to expedite Nepal’s progress, Nepal must diversify its trade and attract investment from China and other countries as well, not just from India. Against this background, Oli’s promises are just promises, which will not see the light of delivery.
Although Trump, Cameron and Oli are all intelligent people, what has prompted them to make absurd promises and wild claims? The answer lies in the rotting political culture everywhere, in which voters make unrealistic expectations and political leaders make fantastic promises. Unless we voters tame our expectations, it will be irresistible for our elected leaders to make wild promises to win the ballot. The ball is in our court.