Magazine article Foreign Policy

The New Coups: Violent Government Takeovers Now Happen Far Less Frequently-And Their Strongmen Fall Much Faster

Magazine article Foreign Policy

The New Coups: Violent Government Takeovers Now Happen Far Less Frequently-And Their Strongmen Fall Much Faster

Article excerpt

A coup d'etat can only mean that a country is going from bad to worse, right? Perhaps it's time to reexamine what happens on the morning after.

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Hein Goemans, a political scientist at the University of Rochester, has compiled an index of the causes and outcomes of 202 unconstitutional seizures of power since 1960. Recently, he teamed up with Nikolay Marinov, a political scientist at Yale University, to hunt for patterns.

Marinov points to a common assumption: "Everyone knew what happened after coups. The people who took power would retain power and rule autocratically." Indeed, coups have historically led far more often to brutal dictatorships--think Chile's Pinochet or Indonesia's Suharto--than democracies.

Yet the researchers think that a new pattern has emerged since the end of the Cold War. Coups occur far less frequently today, according to their work. Between 1960 and 1990, an average of six coups took place annually (1963 was a high-water mark, with a whopping 12 coups). …

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