Learn more about Coup d'état
A coup d’État (pronounced /ku de'ta/), or simply coup, is the sudden overthrow of a government through unconstitutional means by a part of the state establishment — mostly replacing just the high-level figures. It is also an example of political engineering. It may or may not be violent in nature. It is different from a revolution, which is staged by a larger group and radically changes the political system. The term is French for "a (sudden) blow (or strike) to a state" (literally, coup, hit, and État, state, always written with a capital É in this meaning). The term coup can also be used in a casual sense to mean a gain in advantage of one nation or entity over another; e.g. an intelligence coup. By analogy, the term is also applied to corporations, etc; e.g. a boardroom coup.
Since the unsuccessful coup attempts of Wolfgang Kapp in 1920, and of Adolf Hitler in 1923, the German word "Putsch" (originally coined with the Züriputsch of 1839) is often used also, even in French (such as the putsch of November 8, 1942 and the putsch of April 21, 1961, both in Algiers) and Russian (August Putsch in 1991), while the direct German translation is Staatsstreich.
Tactically, a coup usually involves control of some active portion of the military while neutralizing the remainder of a country's armed services. This active group captures or expels leaders, seizes physical control of important government offices, means of communication, and the physical infrastructure, such as streets and power plants. The coup succeeds if its opponents fail to dislodge the plotters, allowing them to consolidate their position, obtain the surrender or acquiescence of the populace and surviving armed forces, and claim legitimacy.
Coups typically use the power of the existing government for its own takeover. As Edward Luttwak remarks in his Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook: "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." In this sense, use of military or other organized force is not the defining feature of a coup d'état.
Coups have long been part of political tradition. Julius Caesar orchestrated a civil war and was subsequently the victim of a coup. Many Roman emperors, such as Claudius, came to power in coups, as did King Jehu of Israel. Shi'a muslims maintain that the seventh century Succession to Muhammad was a coup. In November of 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte staged a coup and seized power in France. Coups were also common in the ancient city-states of India and Greece.
In the late twentieth century, coups occurred all over the world, most commonly in developing countries, in Latin America (e.g. Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay and Argentina), Africa, Asia (e.g. Pakistan, the Philippines, and Thailand), Oceania (e.g. Fiji) and in Europe (e.g. Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain, Bosnia and the Soviet Union).
Since the 1980s, the coup has been somewhat less frequent. A significant reason for the decline is the general inability to resolve the economic and political problems of developing nations, which has made armed forces, particularly in Latin America, much more reluctant to intervene in politics. Hence, in contrast to past crises, the armed forces have sat on the sidelines through economic crises such as the Asian financial crisis in Thailand in 1998 or the Argentine crisis of 2002, and have tended to act only when the military perceives itself as institutionally threatened by the civilian government, as occurred in Pakistan in 1999. Some developed countries like Spain have had coups.
Coups d'état have often been seen as a means for powerful nations to assure favorable outcomes in smaller foreign states. In particular, the American CIA and Soviet KGB developed a reputation for supporting coups in states such as Chile and Afghanistan, respectively. Such actions are substitutes for direct aggression which might cause great discontent in the aggressor state's population. The governments of France and Great Britain have, among others, engineered coups as well.
The most recent example of a coup d'état is the 2006 Thailand coup d'état, which occurred on 19 September 2006. Tanks and heavily armed troops opposed to the Thai Premier seized control of the nation's government buildings while the Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, was in New York attending a UN summit. They ordered the suspension of the legislature, the constitution, and the Supreme Court, and consolidated power by enforcing martial law. The coup leaders also ordered all major international media organisations (such as BBC World, CNN, and NBC) to stop broadcasting.
The most recent attempted coup, which occurred on November 18, 2006, was the 2006 Malagasy coup d'état attempt, lead by General Andrianafidisoa. He failed to seize control of the country and is currently wanted by the government.
 Near cousins of the coup
In recent years, the traditional military coup has declined. The more usual form of military intervention, which some regard as coups d'état, uses the threat of military force to remove a vulnerable or unpopular leader. In contrast to straight coups d'état, the military does not directly assume power, but rather installs civilian leaders it finds more palatable. One advantage of this tactic is the appearance of greater legitimacy.
A classic example is the collapse of the French Fourth Republic. This has also occurred twice in the Philippines. In Mauritania a bloodless coup d'état happened on August 3, 2005 when the president was in Saudi Arabia.
It is also possible for mass street protests to convince the military to withdraw its support from leaders, sometimes leading the opposition to take power in coup-like fashion. In situations of this sort, such as in Serbia (2000), Argentina (2001), Bolivia (2003), Ukraine (2004–2005), Lebanon, Ecuador and Bolivia (2005), popular uprisings forced the sitting political leader to resign their office, causing someone new to assume the role. This often results in a period of stability and calm, in which an unknown and uncontroversial interim leader can rule the nation until new elections can be held.
In 2002 there was an attempted coup in Venezuela against President Hugo Chávez, despite Chávez having been elected by popular vote in two consecutive elections. The coup was initially successful, but quickly fell apart. Sizable public protests in support of Chávez dwarfed rallies launched by his opponents, and major elements of the military stayed on President Chávez's side. Chávez was returned to office two days after the coup, the provisional military junta was dissolved, and the democratic government survived a referendum on new elections by a large margin. In cases such as these, popular protests have been able to prevent coups and place popular leaders back in office.
 Types of coups
Samuel P. Huntington has divided coups into three types (ignoring Luttwak's non-military coups)
- Breakthrough coups: In which a revolutionary army overthrows a traditional government and creates a new bureaucratic elite. Breakthrough coups are generally led by non-commissioned officers (NCOs) or junior officers and only happen once. Examples include China in 1911, Egypt in 1952, Greece in 1967, Bulgaria in 1944 and Liberia in 1980.
- Guardian coups: These coups have been described as musical chairs. The stated aim of this form of coup is to improve public order, efficiency, or to end corruption. There is usually no fundamental shift in the structure of power, and the leaders of these types of coups generally portray their actions as a temporary and unfortunate necessity. One of the early examples of this is the coup by Sulla in 88 BC which displaced the elected leadership of Marius in Rome. Many nations with guardian coups undergo many shifts between civilian and military governments. Examples include Pakistan, Turkey, and Thailand.
- Veto coups: These coups occur when the army vetoes mass participation and social mobilization. In these cases the army must confront and suppress large-scale and broad-based opposition and as a result they tend to be repressive and bloody. Examples include Chile in 1973 and Argentina in 1976. An abortive and botched veto coup occurred in Venezuela in 2002.
Coups can also be classified by the level of the military that leads the coup. Veto coups and guardian coups tend to be led by senior officers. Breakthrough coups tend to be led by junior officers or NCOs. In cases where the coup is led by junior officers or enlisted men, the coup is also a mutiny which can have grave implications for the organizational structure of the military.
There is also a category known as bloodless coups in which the mere threat of violence is enough to force the current government to step aside. Bloodless coups are so called because they involve no violence and thus no bloodshed. Napoleon's 18 Brumaire coup is often pointed out as an example of bloodless coup, showing that bloodless coups are not always considered to be "bloodless": on 18 Brumaire, several members of parliament were thrown out the windows of the building where they assembled. More recently, Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan came to power in a bloodless coup in 1999, and Sonthi Boonyaratglin came to power in Thailand at the head of the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy, 2006
The term self-coup is used when the current government assumes extraordinary powers not allowed by the legislation. A historical example is the actions of then President and later French Emperor Louis Napoléon Bonaparte in 1851 against the powerful National Assembly; while a more modern example is Alberto Fujimori in Peru, who was democratically elected, but later took control of the legislative and judicial powers. Some argue that the assumption of "emergency powers" by King Gyanendra of Nepal was a self-coup.
 Post-military-coup governments
After the coup, the military is faced with the issue of the type of government to establish. In Latin America, it was common for the post-coup government to be led by a junta, a committee of the chiefs of staff of the various armed forces. A common form of African post-coup government is the revolutionary assembly, a quasi-legislative body made of members elected by the army. In Pakistan, the military leader typically assumes the title of chief martial law administrator.
According to Huntington, most coup leaders act under the concept of right orders: they believe that the best way to solve the problems their country is facing is to issue correct orders. This view of government underestimates the difficulty in implementing government policy and the amount of possible political resistance to certain orders. It also presupposes that everyone that matters in the country shares a single common interest, and the only question is how to pursue it.
 Currently-serving leaders who came to power via coups
- Muammar al-Qaddafi, leader of Libya (1969–)
- Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of Equatorial Guinea (1979–)
- Lansana Conté, President of Guinea (1984–)
- Blaise Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso (1987–)
- Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, President of Tunisia (1987–)
- Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, President of Sudan (1989–)
- Yahya Jammeh, President of The Gambia (1994–)
- Pervez Musharraf, Chief of Army Staff and President of Pakistan (1999–)
- François Bozizé, President of the Central African Republic (2003–)
- Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, Chairman of the Military Council for Justice and Democracy in Mauritania (2005–)
- Sonthi Boonyaratglin, Chairman of the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy in Thailand (2006–)
 See also
- List of coups d'état and coups attempts
- Contrast with civilian control of the military
- List of protective service agencies
- List of fictional revolutions and coups
- Political corruption
- Military regime
 External links
- Perception of the risk of a coup in all the countries
- North American Union: Coup d'état American Style by Diane Alden
- News articles related to Thai Coup 2006 (English)
- Edward Luttwak, Coup d'état: A practical handbook, Harvard University Press, 1969, 1980. ISBN 06-741-75476.
- Curzio Malaparte, Technique du Coup d'Etat (Published in French), Paris, 1931.
- D. J. Goodspeed, Six Coups d'Etat, Viking Press inc., New-York, 1962.ar:انقلاب
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