Political institutions and coups in dictatorships

Nam Kyu Kim, Jun Koga Sudduth

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Does the creation of nominally democratic institutions help dictators stay in power by diminishing the risk of coups? We posit that the effectiveness of political institutions in deterring coups crucially depends on the types of plotters and their political goals. By providing a means to address the ruling coalition's primary concerns about a dictator's opportunism or incompetence, institutions reduce the necessity of reshuffling coups, in which the ruling coalition replaces an incumbent leader but keeps the regime intact. However, such institutions do not diminish the risk of regime-changing coups, because the plotters' goals of overthrowing the entire regime and changing the group of ruling coalition are not achievable via activities within the institutions. Our empirical analysis provides strong empirical support for our expectations. Our findings highlight that the role of "democratic" institutions in deterring coups is rather limited as it only applies to less than 38 percent of coup attempts.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages65
JournalComparative Political Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 18 Jan 2021


  • authoritarian politics
  • regime transition
  • coups

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