The Politics of U-Turns

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Volte face or U-turn is a common phenomenon in politics. You would often see politicians or governments making rhetorical promises and promoting a set of noble moral principles before elections when they are not in power. They then resort to questionable behavior when they get into that position. As it is said

“Do not judge a political party by what it says when in opposition. Judge it by what it does when in government.”

Often termed as flip-flop or back-flip, there are various perceptions of political U-turns or policy reversals.

Some call it “hypocrisy” while others call it “political pragmatism“.

Hypocrisy prevails in every ounce of politics. There are two distinct types of hypocrisy: politicians who pretend to care about something but do nothing and those who pretend to believe something but act in opposition.

Politics is the art of the possible. If it is possible to win elections saying one thing, while it is not possible to run a government without backing out on one’s stance, then pragmatism demands a 180 degrees turn.

While some U-turns are politically motivated and opportunistic, others can need time driven by complex policy framing or new information.
U-turns are usually taken in negative connotations as they appear to portray inconsistency in politicians’ conduct and are frequently maneuvered by the opposition for political clout. Moreover, the media quickly highlights such inconsistencies to create sensational news. It also tarnishes the reputation of politicians.

The politics in Pakistan has witnessed a series of Volta-faces, whether it’s about Shahbaz Sharif’s rhetoric to pull Asif Ali Zardari through the streets and eventually to form a coalition with PPP or about Imran khan calling Parvez Elahi a “Dakoo” and electing him as the Chief Minister of Punjab.
Political U-turns are notorious but inevitable, whatever the cause and hypocrisy persist in almost every political system. Calling out and bashing politicians might seem the only choice left for the media and the citizens, but it is in vain.

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Ayesha Ashraf
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