A CANDIDATE who loses an election is not obliged by law or protocol to concede. Publicly admitting defeat, however, is good manners. It helps project the image of “taking the loss gracefully.”
First though, the candidate who concedes has to be convinced that he lost.
Sure he didn’t win
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmena of BOPK must have been sure he was trailing his rival, Barug’s Edgar Labella. Someone posted on Facebook a video clip of Tomas’s message to his supporters when the city board of canvassers still did not have the results from 44 clustered precincts and Labella’s lead was less than 28,000 votes.
But Tomas must have known he lost, before the end of election night, from reports of his own watchers and couriers.
For a candidate to concede, next to being certain about his defeat, is the timing in publicizing the news.
It’s not yet the vogue in this country but in other democracies the question to concede or not constitutes a pressure on the candidate who ultimately decides. On election night, the pressure escalates, along with homestretch jitters over what could go wrong in their strategy and execution.
Dragging one’s feet about conceding or not may reach a point when concession becomes unnecessary, such as when the rival’s victory is already beyond doubt and the city, town or province already knows about it. The delay makes the late gesture unseemly, even distasteful.
The case of former Cabinet secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. was something else. He was convinced he was cheated in the race for Bohol governor, basing on reports from his own staff of “massive vote-buying and fraudulent practices.” And he lagged behind by a measly 2,161 votes.
The message that Evasco sent out, a few hours before his rival Arthur Yap was proclaimed last Thursday (May 16), was not a concession but a notice to protest against the results. He will file a petition for the Comelec to declare a failure of elections, Evasco said. Could be a stab on the wrong ground as elections were actually held although transmission of results was delayed in three towns because of defective SD cards.
Evasco may cite fraud as basis for an election protest if he finds hard evidence of vote-buying and related offenses. Does anyone know of an election winner who was unseated because of vote trafficking? Cebu City prosecutors have already dismissed a complaint against four persons whom police arrested last May 12 for alleged vote-buying.
The former Cabinet official’s message did not concede the election. He admitted though that he knew defeat was coming when reports of alleged fraud poured in. He used the message to blast at the practice that was to “rob” him of the election and to announce the legal step he would take.
Tradition to congratulate
It is a tradition, in more enlightened countries, for the loser to reach out to the victor, in a direct phone call and a news release. That’s not happening here yet. Tomas didn’t congratulate Labella; wounds inflicted by one camp against the other must still hurt. But then in 2013, he didn’t even concede; this election loss was an improvement.
But the outgoing mayor did give some advice about governing, particularly regarding SRP, his “baby,” which he must soon let go at least for another three years, as he did in his first electoral defeat. And, to his credit, Tomas didn’t whine anymore against the police or President Duterte.
Walking into sunset
The loser’s concession helps dissipate the tension, not only between the gladiators but also among their supporters.
But the victor cannot gloat for long. If his opponent bothers about grace in losing and devotes a large part of his message about “caring” for his “people,” he will pick himself up and heal his bruises. Tomas may not be quite ready to walk into the sunset and disappear.