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(Wikipedia) - Coup d''état   (Redirected from Coup) For other uses, see Coup d''état (disambiguation). "Coup" and "Putsch" redirect here. For other uses, see Coup (disambiguation).

A coup d''état (/ˌkuːdeɪˈtɑː/ ( listen (help·info)); French: blow of state; plural: coups d''état), also known as a coup, a putsch, or an overthrow, is the sudden and illegal seizure of a government, usually instigated by a small group of the existing state establishment to depose the established government and replace it with a new ruling body. A coup d''état is considered successful when the usurpers establish their dominance. When the coup either fails or doesn''t entirely succeed, a civil war is a possible consequence.

A coup d''état typically uses the extant government''s power to assume political control of the country. In Coup d''État: A Practical Handbook, military historian Edward Luttwak states that " 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." The armed forces, whether military or paramilitary, can be a defining factor of a coup d''état.



The phrase coup d''État (French pronunciation: ​) is French, literally meaning a "stroke of state" or in practice a "blow against the state". In French the word "État", denoting a sovereign political entity, is capitalized.

Although the coup d''état has featured in politics since antiquity, the phrase is of relatively recent coinage; the Oxford English Dictionary identifies it as a French expression meaning a "stroke of State". The phrase did not appear within an English text, before the nineteenth century, except when used in the translation of a French source, there being no simple phrase in English to convey the contextualized idea of a "knockout blow to the existing administration within a state". One early example of the use of the phrase within text translated from French, is in 1785, in a printed translation of a letter from a French merchant, commenting on an arbitrary decree or ‘arret’ issued by the French King, restricting the import of British woollen cloth. What may be its first published use within a text composed in English, is in an editor’s note in the London Morning Chronicle, 7 January 1802, reporting the arrest by Napoleon in France, of Moreau, Berthier, Massena, and Bernadotte:

There was a report in circulation yesterday of a sort of coup d’etat having taken place in France, in consequence of some formidable conspiracy against the existing government.

In post-Revolutionary France, the phrase came to be used to describe the various murders by Napoleon’s hated secret police, the Gens d’Armes d’Elite, who murdered the Duke of Enghien:

… the actors in torture, the distributors of the poisoning draughts, and the secret executioners of those unfortunate individuals or families, whom Bonaparte’s measures of safety require to remove. In what revolutionary tyrants call grand coups d’etat, as butchering, or poisoning, or drowning, en masse, they are exclusively employed.

Since an unsuccessful coup d''état in 1920 (the Kapp Putsch), the Swiss German word Putsch (pronounced ; coined for the Züriputsch of 1839) also denotes the same politico-military actions.

Usage of the phrase

Politically, a coup d''état is a usually violent method of political engineering, which affects who rules in the government, without radical changes in the form of the government, the political system. Tactically, a coup d''état involves control, by an active minority of usurpers, who block the remaining (non-participant) defenders of the state''s possible defence of the attacked government, by either capturing or expelling the politico-military leaders, and seizing physical control of the country''s key government offices, communications media, and infrastructure. It is to be noted that in the latest years there has been a broad use of the phrase in mass media, which may contradict the legal definition of "coup d''état". In looser usage (as in intelligence coup, boardroom coup) the term simply refers to gaining a sudden advantage on a rival.

Pronunciamiento Main article: Pronunciamiento

Pronunciamiento (pronouncement) is term of Spanish and Latin American origin for a special type of coup d''état. The coup d''état (called golpe de Estado in Spanish) was more common in Spain and South America, while the pronunciamiento was more common in Central America. The pronunciamiento is the formal explanation for deposing the regnant government, justifying the installation of the new government that was effected with the golpe de Estado. The difference between a coup and a pronunciamento is that in the former a military, paramilitary or opposing political faction deposes the current government and assumes power; in the pronunciamiento the military deposes the existing government and installs an (ostensibly) civilian government.

History Further information: List of coups d''état and coup attempts and List of coups d''état and coup attempts by country

Historically speaking, variations of coup d''état have been amongst the most common forms of governmental transition in human societies. In the modern day, coups d''état are common in Africa; between 1952 and 2000, thirty-three countries experienced 85 such depositions. Western Africa had most of them, 42; most were against civil regimes; 27 were against military regimes; and only in five were the deposed incumbents killed. Moreover, as a change-of-government method, the incidence of the coup d''état has declined worldwide.

This section does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (August 2014)

The political scientist Samuel P. Huntington identifies three classes of coup d''état:

A coup d''état is typed according to the military rank of the lead usurper.

The self-coup denotes an incumbent government – aided and abetted by the military – assuming extra-constitutional powers. A historical example is President, then Emperor, Louis Napoléon Bonaparte. Modern examples include Alberto Fujimori, in Peru, who, although elected, temporarily suspended the legislature and the judiciary in 1992, becoming an authoritarian ruler, and King Gyanendra''s assumption of "emergency powers" in Nepal. Another form of self-coup is when a government, having been defeated in an election, refuses to step down.

Resistance to coups d''état

Many coups d''état, even if initially successful in seizing the main centres of state power, are actively opposed by certain segments of society or by the international community. Opposition can take many different forms, including an attempted counter-coup by sections of the armed forces, international isolation of the new regime, and military intervention.

Sometimes opposition takes the form of civil resistance, in which the coup is met with mass demonstrations from the population generally, and disobedience among civil servants and members of the armed forces. Cases in which civil resistance played a significant part in defeating armed coups d''état include: the Kornilov Putsch in Russia in August 1917; the Kapp Putsch in Berlin in March 1920; and the Generals'' Revolt in Algiers in April 1961. The coup in the Soviet Union on 19–21 August 1991 is another case in which civil resistance was part of an effective opposition to a coup: Boris Yeltsin, President of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, stood on top of a tank in the centre of Moscow and urged people to refuse co-operation with the coup.

Governments following military coups

After the coup d''état, the military faces the matter of what 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 armed forces. A common form of African post-coup government is the revolutionary assembly, a quasi-legislative body elected by the army. In Pakistan, the military leader typically assumes the title of chief martial law administrator.

According to Huntington, most leaders of a coup d''état act under the concept of right orders: they believe that the best resolution of the country''s problems is merely to issue correct orders. This view of government underestimates the difficulty of implementing government policy, and the degree of political resistance to certain correct orders. It presupposes that everyone who matters in the country shares a single, common interest, and that the only question is how to pursue that single, common interest.

Current leaders who assumed power via coups d''état
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Title Name Assumed power Replaced Country Coup d''état
Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said1 01970-07-23-000023 July 1970 Said bin Taimur  Oman 1970 Omani coup d''état
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo 01979-08-03-00003 August 1979 Francisco Macías Nguema  Equatorial Guinea 1979 Equatoguinean coup d''état
President Yoweri Museveni 01986-01-29-000029 January 1986 Tito Okello  Uganda Ugandan Bush War
President Blaise Compaoré 01987-10-15-000015 October 1987 Thomas Sankara  Burkina Faso 1987 Burkinabé coup d''état
President Omar al-Bashir 01989-06-30-000030 June 1989 Sadiq al-Mahdi  Sudan 1989 Sudanese coup d''état
President Idriss Déby 01990-12-02-00002 December 1990 Hissène Habré  Chad 1990 Chadian revolution
President Yahya Jammeh2 01994-07-22-000022 July 1994 Dawda Jawara  The Gambia 1994 Gambian coup d''état
Prime Minister Hun Sen 01997-08-01-0000August 1997 Norodom Ranariddh  Cambodia 1997 Cambodian coup d''état
President Denis Sassou Nguesso 01997-10-25-000025 October 1997 Pascal Lissouba  Republic of the Congo Republic of the Congo Civil War
Acting Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama 02006-12-05-00005 December 2006 Laisenia Qarase  Fiji 2006 Fijian coup d''état
President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz3 02008-08-06-00006 August 2008 Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi  Mauritania 2008 Mauritanian coup d''état
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha 02014-05-22-000022 May 2014 Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan4  Thailand 2014 Thai coup d''état

1Monarch who overthrew his father in a bloodless palace coup. 2Subsequently confirmed in office by an apparently free and fair election. 3Subsequently confirmed by a narrow margin in the Mauritanian presidential election, 2009, which was regarded as "satisfactory" by international observers. 4Acting Prime Minister at that time.

Other uses of the term

The term has also been used in a corporate context more specifically as boardroom coup. CEOs that have been sacked by behind-the-scenes maneuvering include Robert Stempel of General Motors and John Akers of IBM, in 1992 and 1993, respectively.

Steve Jobs attempted management coups twice at Apple Inc.; first in 1985 when he unsuccessfully tried to oust John Sculley and then again in 1997 which successfully forced Gil Amelio to resign.

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