Concession (politics)

In politics, a concession is the act of a losing candidate publicly yielding to a winning candidate after an election after the overall result of the vote has become clear.

Refusal to concede

Concession is entirely optional, and candidates sometimes refuse to concede defeat despite the vote count being against them, especially if they suspect electoral fraud. In that case, the candidate would likely demand a recount of the votes or other investigations into the alleged fraud. Sometimes, concession may be denied not because of any specific fraud allegations but simply because of ill will accumulated over the campaign.

It is not necessary for the losing candidate to concede for the winning candidate to be seated, and the losing candidate is not obliged to concede once defeat has been conclusively demonstrated.

Timing of concession

If the vote is relatively close, it can be unclear when it is appropriate for a losing candidate to concede an election. On election night, pressures from a media looking for news to report, an opposition campaign anxious to declare victory, and one's own campaign unwilling to concede defeat if there is any hope of a last-minute turnaround all weigh on the decision of the losing candidate.

It is exceedingly rare for a concession, once issued, to be retracted; such an event occurred in the United States 2000 presidential election, when Democratic candidate Al Gore, Jr. telephoned Republican George W. Bush to concede the contest. Gore was apparently unaware of the close vote count in the state of Florida, and when he realized it, he proceeded to cancel his concession address.

A losing candidate commonly offers a private concession directly to the winning candidate, usually by telephone, before any public announcement is made.

Concession speech

In the broadcast age, the concession speech of a candidate for high office reaches a wide audience and is seen as the final swan song of a lost campaign. Out of courtesy, the winner of the campaign usually waits for a concession speech, if one is forthcoming, before delivering the acceptance speech.

A losing candidate usually thanks their supporters for their valiant efforts and points to the non-electoral successes of the campaign in building party strength and raising issues to attention that would not otherwise be in public discussion. It is also traditional, unless the campaign has been exceptionally bitter, to congratulate and wish well the winning candidate, perhaps even offering a parting word of advice.


The first "concession telegram" occurred when William Jennings Bryan sent William McKinley two days after the 1896 US presidential election. Prior to that election results took many days and thus candidates maintained an air of detachment from the process.[1]


  1. Onion, Rebecca (9 November 2016). "When Did Losing Candidates Start Calling the Winner to Concede?". Slate (magazine). Retrieved 9 November 2016.
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