The Importance of Good Losers in Democracy

39 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2021

See all articles by Manuel Martínez-Novillo

Manuel Martínez-Novillo

Universidad Nacional de Tucumán

Patricio Navia

New York University; Universidad Diego Portales

Date Written: April 14, 2021


Minimalist and procedural definitions of democracy assume that losers will accept the election results. Yet, levels of compliance among losers vary. The options losers have go beyond accepting or rejecting the results — and rebelling against the winners. We focus on the course of action for losers who do not fully accept the results. Though bad losers do not directly attempt to overthrow the incumbent government or subvert voting results, their actions are a veiled threat to democracy. By focusing on what bad losers do, we contribute to a better understanding of the conditions under which democracy works. After discussing the role of losers in democratic theory and the importance theorists place on the need for losers to comply with election results. We analyze examples from Latin America and the United States to show how bad losers can undermine the well-functioning of democracy. Democracy needs winners and losers to be constrained.

Keywords: Democratic Theory; Definitions of Democracy; Bad Losers in Democracy; Compliance With Elections; Consequences of Elections

Suggested Citation

Martínez-Novillo, Manuel and Navia, Patricio Daniel, The Importance of Good Losers in Democracy (April 14, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Manuel Martínez-Novillo

Universidad Nacional de Tucumán ( email )

Ayacucho 491 - (T4000INI) San Miguel de Tucumán

Patricio Daniel Navia (Contact Author)

New York University ( email )

726 Broadway Room 666
New York, NY 10003
United States
212-995-3728 (Phone)


Universidad Diego Portales ( email )

Ejercito 333
Santiago, Santiag

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