The votes are tallied, and all the attention naturally goes to the winner. But what about the loser?
Free and fair elections mean there will be winners and losers every time. In a strong democracy, the party that loses an election accepts its defeat, knowing the electoral system will afford it another chance in the next election.
Take, for example, Burkina Faso’s December 2015 election. The defeated candidate, former finance minister Zéphirin Diabré, took to social media to congratulate the decisive winner, Roch Marc Kaboré. “The stability and peace of Burkina are more important than all political calculations,” Diabré tweeted.
La stabilité et la paix du Burkina sont plus importantes que tous les calcules politique. #Burkina #lwili #UPC
— Zéphirin Diabré (@Zephirindiabre) December 5, 2015
How opposition parties behave after elections that are very close or that are perceived as flawed is especially important.
Nigeria’s historic 2015 elections produced that nation’s first peaceful transfer of power. In his concession speech, defeated President Goodluck Jonathan acknowledged that although he had lost by more than 2 million votes, some voters might not agree with the results announced by the National Electoral Commission, the independent body that oversees elections in that country.
In his concession, Jonathan highlighted the importance of putting the country before personal ambition. “As I have always affirmed,” Jonathan said in his televised speech, “nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. The unity, stability and progress of our dear country is more important than anything else.”
In the United States, the 2000 presidential election was close and contentious. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling over disputed Florida ballots ensured the victory of Texas Governor George W. Bush over Vice President Albert Gore Jr.
In his speech acknowledging the decision and President-elect Bush’s victory, Gore said, “Almost a century and a half ago, senator Stephen Douglas told Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated him for the presidency, ‘Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I’m with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.’ Well, in that same spirit, I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country.”