Watching the Australian elections I notice that a lot of seats were won with small margins and the loser will often concede the election with less than 50% of the votes counted.

From what I have read a concession is not legally binding, but I can't find any examples of someone conceding defeat and then been found to have won.

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    In case it counts, my understanding is that Brexit protagonists were widely assuming they'd lose the referendum. May 21, 2019 at 3:14
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    @DenisdeBernardy On that matter, Nigel Farage made uncharacteristically pessimistic remarks immediately after the 2016 Brexit referendum polls closed and said that the hoped he would be proven wrong to be pessimistic. Of course the GBP appreciated, creating the opportunity for some people to short it at a higher value before Farage more characteristically returned to form a few hours later. So convenient.
    – H2ONaCl
    May 21, 2019 at 5:35
  • I went looking for elections with recounts on the theory that they might have been close enough to get reversed later on. In the US, there have only been three statewide elections that were reversed on recounts (WA governor 2004, VT auditor of accounts 2006, and MN senate 2008). But as far as I can tell, none of the candidates who were initially losing in those cases ever actually conceded. May 21, 2019 at 13:48

2 Answers 2


Yes, this happened in Portugal in 2015. The Socialist Party candidate Antonio Costa conceded defeat to the center-right coalition (Social-Democracy Party & People's Party) than came to form government a few days later when the Parliament did not approve the coalition government.

Here are the important facts for context:

The 2015 legislative election results (like a general election) were this:

2015 Portugal election results

It's fairly easy to see that although the center-right coalition (light green) is the bigger group, the majority of the parliament is on the spectrum of left to center. The consequence was that Parliament rejected the center-right government. Moreover parties such as Unitary Democratic coalition (Greens/Communist Party), Left Bloc, Animal-Nature Party, and the Socialist Party approved a government by the latter. This government was than approved by the President at the time (reluctantly, himself being a center-right politician).

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    It's worth noting that the center-right coalition, led by Passos Coelho, did take the oath of office to form the government after the election. They were then brought down in (effectively) a vote of no confidence when they submitted their legislative program to the Parliament. In other words, both major parties got a chance to form the government in succession. May 21, 2019 at 13:32
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    @MichaelSeifert Yes, but even that was controversial at the time. The President decided to invite the center-right coalition to form government knowing that they did not had approval from the Parliament. He was making a bet that this would be enough to pressure the parliament into accepting a minority government. But this was seen as a kind of overreach of his functions (seen as a bias due to his center-right stance) and he ended up being forced to approve the (center-left) administration supported by the Parliament. Moreover his popularity dropped drastically.
    – armatita
    May 21, 2019 at 13:53
  • Not exactly what I was looking for, but the closest yet. This is more an example of the biggest party failing to make a coalition
    – mgh42
    May 22, 2019 at 22:52
  • @mgh42 The biggest group isn't a single party but a coalition of two (made prior to the elections). Furthermore the Socialist Party (which is currently the ruling administration) is not in a coalition with other left, or center-left parties. This is still a minority government, just one that was approved by parliament.
    – armatita
    May 23, 2019 at 8:09

There are a few examples in the wild of candidates withdrawing their concessions, only to concede again when the results were clearer, but I couldn't locate any that conceded, withdrew their concession, and went on winning.

The closest example of what you ask that I located was Al Gore conceding to Bush, and later retracted his concession in the 2000 US Presidential Election. That year, Al Gore won the popular vote; Bush won the electoral college vote, which is the one that matters.

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    That was the closest I could find, but he still lost and Bush was elected
    – mgh42
    May 21, 2019 at 3:49
  • @mgh42: yeah, I couldn't locate any. I tried some date-based filters in order to avoid the 2018 (Florida) and 2000 (Florida) related chatter. There was some stuff, mostly related to primaries in the US, where the concession was withdrawn and the election was lost. But nothing turned up with the candidate ultimately winning. May 21, 2019 at 4:01
  • I think it does come up a lot more in down ballot elections in the United States, but most aren't for anything on the national level.
    – hszmv
    May 21, 2019 at 20:48

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