News & Updates

Why Do Militaries Launch Coups?

Coups are a direct assault on democracy. And militaries — whether attempting to overthrow a government or assisting a leader’s power grab — can be pivotal to whether a coup succeeds or fails. In a new Journal of Democracy online exclusive, Sharan Grewal argues that we must understand what motivates a military if we are to deter coups and keep the military in its barracks.

The following Journal of Democracy essays examine what makes coups more likely, and how democracies can keep the military brass from seizing power.

Why Militaries Support Presidential Coups
If you want to understand why generals support a presidential power grab, then you need to understand the logic that motivates them. Why they leave the barracks — and what we must do to get them to stand down.
Sharan Grewal

The Truth About Africa’s Coups
Praetorian politics are not making a comeback. Africa’s recent putsches have more to do with democracy’s failure to deliver than any fondness for military rule.
Kennedy Ochieng’ Opalo

The Myth of the Coup Contagion
Many fear that coups are making a comeback. While this is not true, one thing is alarming: Anti-coup norms are starting to erode.
Naunihal Singh

Coup in Tunisia: Is Democracy Lost?
President Kais Saied’s power grab has crushed Tunisian democracy, returning the country to the old playbook of Arab dictators past and present.
Moncef Marzouki

Burma: The Generals Strike Back
The military could not bear Aung San Suu Kyi’s enduring popularity and her party’s continued success at the polls. But the generals may have miscalculated how much the people detest them.
Zoltan Barany

Sudan’s Uprising: The Fall of a Dictator
Amid mass protests, the personalist autocracy of longtime Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir fell to an April 2019 coup. With the country now being governed by a council composed of both opposition leaders and powerful security-service coupmakers, prospects for democratization remain uncertain.
Mai Hassan and Ahmed Kodouda

The Fading of the Anti-Coup Norm
Following the end of the Cold War, an international norm against coups began gaining strength, but it seems to have lost momentum in recent years. What has happened?
Oisín Tansey

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Image Credit: Tunisian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images