Since the end of the Cold War, the military coup d’état has become the greatest threat to transitional democracies around the world. This policy brief provides a series of recommendations based on a recent study on coup in transitional democracy published in Comparative Political Studies under the title “Coup d’État and Democracy.” This research urges greater attention to how new democracies can, with the help of the international community, convince military elites to stay out of politics without relying on repression.
Military elites are powerful figures in nondemocratic governments, so they may want to retain that influence during transitions to democracy. So as to reduce coup risk, transitional governments should actively work to include them in political transitions.
Constraints on executive authority (i.e., checks and balances) prevent the leaders of transitional democracies from “coup-proofing” as effectively as the comparatively unconstrained leaders of nondemocratic states, so international actors must work harder to preemptively condemn and prevent coups against new democracies.
Organizations working in transitional democracies should be aware that while democratization does not increase the frequency of coup attempts, it does roughly double the chances that an attempted coup will be successful. Organizations should have contingency plans for attempted and successful coups in newly democratic states.