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Can Coups Be Justified? - Facts & Infographic

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What Is A Coup d'état?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a coup d'état, also called a coup, an overthrow, or a putsch, as “a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics; especially the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group”. Literally translated, a coup d'état means ‘stroke of state’ in French. It means overthrow of an existing government without a civil war. The expression is relatively new, although coups date back to antiquity. The first known usage of the term coup d'état was in 1646 when James Howell used it in book ‘Louis XIII: Life of Richelieu’. In England, writer J.M. Thompson is known to have used the term in the year 1811 first with reference to Napoleon Bonaparte's overthrow of the Revolutionary Directory in the year 1799. Professor Thomas Childers of the University of Pennsylvania believes that the lack of an English word to describe such a sudden deposition of a government is due to the strength of England's political institutions. While the histories of France, Germany, South American and African countries are strewn with such decisive actions, coups in England's history are rare, though not non-existent. Putsch is the Swiss-German word for a coup d'état and is used quite frequently.

 

Is A Democratic Coup d'état Possible?

A coup d’état is merely an attempt to usurp power and often uses the power of the existing regime for the overthrow. In his book, Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook, Edward Luttwak says, “A coup consists of the infiltration of a small, but critical, segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder”. This definition of Luttwak challenges the traditional thought that the use of either military or other such organized forces is an essential feature of all coups d'état.

In recent times, following the Arab Spring, the Democratic Coups d'état have been widely debated. Ozan O. Varol in his “The Democratic Coup d'état” defines seven features –

  • It is staged against an authoritarian or totalitarian regime

  • The military’s response is endorsed by popular opposition to the regime

  • The incumbent totalitarian leader is unwilling to abdicate despite popular opposition

  • The military staging the coup has the respect of the masses

  • The military steps in to overthrow the incumbent leader

  • The military oversees free and fair polls shortly afterwards

  • The military transfers power to the democratically elected leaders ending the coup

 

The Turkish Coup of 1960, the Portuguese Coup of 1974, and the Egyptian Coup of 2011 are some of the best-known Democratic Coups d'état.

 

The Pronunciamiento

The coup d'état, common is Spain and South American states is often referred to as the Golpe de Estado in Spanish. In many Central American nations, the Golpe de Estado is followed by a Pronunciamiento (Pronouncement). The armed forces, having deposed the regent finds it incumbent to explain the reasons for the overthrow to the people. It subsequently installs another civil government instead of assuming authority itself as in cases of traditional coups d'état.

Through the previous decade, instances of mass protests urging the military to withdraw support from an unpopular leader have been increasing. In these cases the country's opposition takes power in a coup d’état. Such popular support-inspired coup d’état were seen in Serbia (2000), Argentina (2001), the Philippines (1986 and 2001), Bolivia (2003), Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004-2005), Lebanon (2005), Ecuador (2005), and Bolivia (2005), It is evident that the change in governance leads to political and economic stability in many such cases. In 1979, the people of Iran rose up in protest of the last Shah of Iran's regime. Ayatollah Khomeini executed a well-supported coup d’état to gain power in the country.

It is common for states to be led by a committee of military personnel to lead the government following a coup. Such a committee is called a junta. But increasingly, the junta has only been assuming interim authority till a democratically elected government is in place. The collapse of the French Fourth Republic and Charles De Gaulle’s return to power following the Algiers Crisis of 1958 is seen as a classic example.

 

Other Types Of Coups d'état

Breakthrough coup d'état - Traditional government is overthrown by a revolutionary military force. Examples are Turkey in 1960, Greece in 1967, Libya in 1969, Portugal in 1974 and Liberia in 1980.

Guardian coup d'état - A coup where the usurper states that the incumbent is inefficient and a change will end corruption and bring about efficient administration. Example - Chief of Army Staff General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq overthrew Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto 1977, citing widespread civil disorder as a justification. Later General Pervez Musharraf overthrew Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999 again stating that the latter had led the country to the brink of a civil war.

Veto coup d'état – A coup where the army disallows mass participation in self-governance and suppresses any civil opposition. Example - The coup d'état in Chile against the Socialist President Salvador Allende by the Chilean military in 1973.

Bloodless coup d'état – A coup where the threat of violence is sufficient to depose the incumbent rather than the actual use of force. Example - Sonthi Boonyaratglin’s assumption of authority in Thailand in 2006, taking over as the leader of the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy.

 

Countries At Risk Of Coups In 2013

American political scientist, Jay Ulfelder, theorizes and forecasts political development and instability in his blog 'dartthrowingchimp'. Ulfelder predicts possible coup d'état at the start of every year since 2012. According to Ulfelder the following are the top 30 countries in terms of the likelihood of the occurrence of a coup in 2013 –

1

Guinea-Bissau

16

Nigeria

2

Sudan

17

Bangladesh

3

Mali

18

Mozambique

4

Madagascar

19

Central African Republic

5

Mauritania

20

South Sudan

6

Guinea

21

Ethiopia

7

Chad

22

Tanzania

8

Congo-Kinshasa

23

Yemen

9

Niger

24

Ivory Coast

10

Timor Leste

25

Syria

11

Lesotho

26

Rwanda

12

Haiti

27

Burkina Faso

13

Cambodia

28

Zimbabwe

14

Ecuador

29

Gambia

15

Afghanistan

30

Liberia

 

Incumbent Leaders Who Assumed Power By Coups d'état

Country

Title

Name

Assumed office

Oman

Sultan

Qaboos bin Said Al Said

23-Jul-70

Equatorial Guinea

President

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

3-Aug-79

Uganda

President

Yoweri Museveni

29-Jan-86

Burkina Faso

President

Blaise Compaoré

15-Oct-87

Sudan

President

Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir

30-Jun-89

Chad

President

Idriss Déby

2-Dec-90

The Gambia

President

Yahya Jammeh

22-Jul-94

Qatar

Emir

Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani

27-Jun-95

Republic of the Congo

President

Denis Sassou-Nguesso

25-Oct-97

Fiji

Prime Minister of Fiji

Frank Bainimarama

5-Dec-06

Mauritania

President

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz

6-Aug-08

Madagascar

President of the High Transitional Authority

Andry Rajoelina

17-Mar-09

Mali

Interim President

Dioncounda Traoré

11-Apr-12

Guinea-Bissau

Acting President

Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo

11-May-12

Central African Republic

President

Michel Djotodia

24-Mar-13

 

Some Significant Coups d'état

England – 1688 - The Glorious Revolution of 1688 was one of the rare instances of a coup in England. King James II of England was overthrown by William of Orange in liaison with the English Parliamentarians. William ascended the English throne as William III of England jointly with his wife Mary II of England.

France – 1799 – The coup of 18 Brumaire was led by Napoleon Bonaparte in which the general overthrew the French Directory and replaced it with the Consulate. The coup led to the adoption of a constitution which declared the First Consul, a position Bonaparte was to hold, the most power in the French governmental system.

China - 1911 - With the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, Emperor Puyi of China's last imperial dynasty, the Qing Dynasty, abdicated making way for the establishment of the Republic of China.

Russia - 1917 - The Great October Socialist Revolution in Petrograd was a coup by the local Bolsheviks-dominated soviets who overthrew the Russian Provincial Government. The October Revolution sparked off the Russian Civil War which led to the creation of the Soviet Union in 1922.

Czechoslovakia - 1948 - The Czech coup of 1948 ended over four decades of communism in Czechoslovakia and ended with the appointment of a communist government. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, with Soviet backing, assumed authority in the country in another significant event leading up to the Cold War.

Germany – 1923 - The Beer Hall Putsch or the Munich Putsch of 1923 is a classic example of a failed coup.The Hitler-led Nazi party, Generalquartiermeister Erich Ludendorff, and other Kampfbund leaders made an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Weimar government of Ebert and seize power in Munich.

Iran – 1953, 1979 – The 28 Mordad coup of Iran was the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and his government. The coup had the backing of the United Kingdom and the US. Mohammad-Rez? Sh?h Pahlavi, the constitutional monarch took over as the authoritarian leader of Iran. In 1979, Pahlavi lost his authority in another coup (Iranian Revolution) leading up to the establishment of the Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

Cuba – 1959 – The Cuban Revolution lasted six long years between 1953 and 1959. Fidel Castro led the coup popularly referred to as the 26th of July Movement against the authoritarian regime of the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Batista was ousted in January 1959and Castro took over. The government of Cuba soon underwent reforms and became the Communist Party of Cuba.

Brazil – 1964 - The 1964 Brazilian coup d'état led to the overthrow of President João Goulart, called Jango, by the Armed Forces of Brazil. The coup, supported by the United States, led to over four decades of military regime in the country.

Egypt – 2011 – The Egyptian Revolution of 2011 was part of the Arab Spring that shook up authoritarian leaders the world over. Egypt broke out in a popular uprising against President Mubarak Hosni and his authoritarian regime leading up to an overthrow of the government. The military junta facilitated polls and a democratic election in the country.

 

Sources

http://dartthrowingchimp.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/coup_risk_map_20131.png

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coup_d'%C3%A9tat

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/64/EN_Worldwide_coups_d%27%C3%A9tat.PNG

http://putsch.askdefine.com/

http://dartthrowingchimp.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/coup-forecasts-for-2013/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/25/coup-predictions-africa-mali

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/01/22/map-the-countries-most-at-risk-for-a-coup-in-2013/

http://www.harvardilj.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/HLI203.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Fourth_Republic

http://en.rian.ru/infographics/20090630/155391918.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-17476760

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/01/22/map-the-countries-most-at-risk-for-a-coup-in-2013/

http://listverse.com/2009/06/01/top-10-significant-historical-coups-detat/

http://www.amazon.com/Coup-d%C3%89tat-A-Practical-Handbook/product-reviews/0674175476

Can Coups Be Justified.


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