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Why Politicians Don’t Protest Elections. Losers’ Consent in Established Democracies

Conference paper
Authors Peter Esaiasson
Published in the Annual APSA Meeting, Toronto, September 2009
Publication year 2009
Published at Department of Political Science
Language en
Keywords procedural fairness; legitimacy
Subject categories Social Sciences


The paper explores how politicians in established democracies respond to election outcome in terms of attitudinal system support. While current research is dominated by a disappointed loser perspective, it argues that a morally based voluntary acceptance perspective adds insight about the forces that motivates politicians to consent. Politicians (and citizens) agree that there are special qualities about democratic government (e.g. Dahl 1989). This creates a moral obligation for electoral losers to accept loss voluntarily. The paper employs data from consecutive surveys of Swedish parliamentary candidates to evaluate empirical support for a revised understanding of the processes at play. In support of a voluntary acceptance perspective it is found that support building effects of winning are stronger than support undermining effect of losing among politicians that are elected to office. Indeed, given standard institutional arrangement of representative democracies, losing politicians feel morally obliged to willingly accept unfavourable outcomes.

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