“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember it or overthrow it.”
US President ABRAHAM LINCOLN, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861
The United States Declaration of Independence is one of the most cited manifestos in the world. The word manifesto comes from the Latin word manifestum, meaning clear or conspicuous. Thus, political manifesto therefore becomes the views and intentions of what the Government will do and its people are expected to follow. It is done within the political party framework, for example the Tory party in the UK or the Republican party in the US. In the case of Kenya, recently the Jubilee Manifesto was released with much pomp and fare. It is made up of Three Pillars: Transforming Lives, Transforming Society and Transforming Nation.
The manifesto aims to capture the transformation and pledges the political party is making in terms of education, security, infrastructure, economy and culture.
For example in the ruling party BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) of India, their Election 2014 manifesto including a reform in the Police force, where it stated, modernize the Police force and give special emphasis on the working conditions and welfare of police personnel. Recently last year the Mein Kampf was republished since 1945 and this was Adolf Hitler’s collection of the policies he wanted for Germany. Libya’s former ruler Muammar Gaddafi also wrote one, called The Green Book.
The oldest manifesto known is that of Baghdad Manifesto of 1011 where it states that majority of Arabs and Muslims do not view the Fatimids as their legitimate descendants from Ali.
Thus, a manifesto can be a declaration of a belief that needs to run far in the country or faith.
The best example of how a manifesto can literally change an election, is the concluded US General Election. When the presidential candidate adorned caps with the slogan “Make America Great Again” he was creating history. The message from his opposition candidate Hillary Clinton of “Stronger Together” did not hold any power in the end and break the glass ceiling. This election campaign was also an excellent example of how the slogans, marketing gimmicks and the political debates took away the attention from the intricacies of the party manifestos. If the party is weak and falling apart even its own manifesto can not support the candidate. It is easy to write promises but difficult to fulfill them. There then needs to be a section of corporate like responsibility on productivity and efficiency. The most important being transparency, for example the government can put the live BOQ (Bill of Quantities) on their site for all to monitor cost and items used to build a railway. It may sound extreme but there can be several other measures to put in the place to check the accountability of these pledges, just like the sales teams get KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Instead of politicians lashing out in the parliament or senate and having a blame game match, it is time for some more sophistication of saying what work needs to be done and getting it done and checking how it was done.
According to the World Bank Governance indicators, they check out:
Voice and Accountability
Political Stability and Absence of Violence
Rule of Law
Control of Corruption
An example from the World Bank Governance and The Law Report of 2017 says:
“The past 20 years have seen enormous progress around the world in socioeconomic indicators. The rapid diffusion of technology and greater access to capital and world markets have enabled economic growth rates that were previously unfathomable, and they have helped lift over 1 billion people out of poverty. And yet increased flows have also led to rising inequality, both within and across borders, and to greater vulnerability to global economic trends and cycles. Indeed, although the global spread of capital, technology, ideas, and people has helped many countries and people move forward, other regions and populations appear to have been left behind, and they are still facing violence, slow growth, and limited opportunities for advancement.”
Ultimately the power of the constitution still matters but it can fail if the judicial process is not allowed to function to its proper level of authority and transparency. Then, a large manifesto will remain nothing but a marketing campaign for the political party.