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July 05, 2013 10:54 AM How Often Do Coups Lead to Elections?

By Erik Voeten

coups

As a commentator on Jeremy Pressman’s excellent blog post noted, Hein Goemans and Nikolay Marinov’s research on the rise of the guardian coup is highly relevant for interpreting what is likely to transpire in Egypt (see here our earlier blog). Below is the abstract of their article (ungated), now forthcoming in the British Journal of Political Science:

We use new data on coup d’états and elections to document a striking development: whereas the vast majority of successful coups before 1991 installed durable rules, the majority of coups after that have been followed by competitive elections. We argue that after the Cold War international pressure influenced the consequences of coups. In the post-Cold War era those countries that are most dependent on Western aid have been the first to embrace competitive elections after the coup. Our theory also sheds light on the pronounced decline in the number of coups since 1991. While the coup d’état has been and still is the single most important factor leading to the downfall of democratic government, our findings indicate that the new generation of coups has been far less harmful for democracy than their historical predecessors.

This provides some grounds for optimism based largely on Egypt’s dependence on foreign (U.S. aid). Samer Shehata is less sanguine about Egypt’s future by drawing the distinction between democrats and liberals in Egypt’s politics:

Egypt has a dilemma: its politics are dominated by democrats who are not liberals and liberals who are not democrats. [..] integrating Islamists is essential if Egypt is to have stable, democratic politics. Movements like the Brotherhood are a core constituency in Egyptian society; democracy requires their inclusion. If the millions in the streets want the Brotherhood out of power, they must learn to organize and campaign effectively, and vote them out. That would be the best way to establish liberal democracy in Egypt. Removing Mr. Morsi through a military coup supported by the secular and liberal opposition could well be the worst.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

Erik Voeten is the Peter F. Krogh associate professor of geopolitics and global justice at Georgetown University.