Ronald Meinardus of the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation has written an interesting article on losers’ reluctance to concede in Philippine elections. His argument that the absence of parties accentuates this trait is a good one I think.
In the seemingly endless post-election statements, I have yet to find a confession from a losing candidate that the loss may also have resulted from one's own shortcomings. It seems that self-criticism by politicians is anathema in this country. This mentality may explain many of the problems in the political process since the elections.
In theory it is very simple: every election produces winners and losers. Selecting one or more individuals from a group of candidates is the very essence of the electoral exercise. Defeat is an integral part of the democratic equation.
The manner in which politicians and the political class as a whole deal with defeat says a lot about the political culture of a country. I have not come across a place where politicians have such a hard time conceding defeat as is the case in the Philippines. Most Filipino friends I have talked to about this phenomenon argue that this has to do with the losers' desire to avoid "losing face."
Having lived more than six years in Confucian South Korea, I am well aware of the importance of avoiding personal embarrassment in a social context. On the other hand, I have never quite understood (let alone accepted) why East Asians are supposedly exclusive in this regard. Europeans and people from other parts of the world have similar psychological conditions. They, too, dread losing face.
Still, in most countries defeated candidates seem to have no problem in publicly conceding defeat. ...
In most Western democracies the burden of doing just that seems far smaller than in the Philippines. Apart from the psychological imperative to avoid loss of face, institutional factors may also play a role. Unlike the Philippines, where all electoral campaigns are personalized (and therefore personal), elections in many other democracies are fought primarily between rival political parties.
In these countries too, politicians abhor losing, but their defeat is more bearable as it is at least in part perceived as a collective failure. The point I want to make is that, in contrast to the Philippines, candidates see themselves more as part of a larger collective (usually a political party), and, in case of defeat, the burden of "losing face" is shared by many others."