Coups

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Definition

A coup is the unlawful removal of the leader or leadership of a country, usually by force or threat of force, and usually by the country's own military or a faction within that military force.

Overview

All but a handful of countries which gained independence from a colonial power in Latin America, Asia, and Africa have experienced one or more coups. Many have experienced many coups in succession.

Usually, a less than popular elected civilian government is accused of incompetence and/or corruption by military officers who see themselves not as servants of the civilian authority, but as "guardians of the state". Some coups are popular, some are not. For example, the recent coup in Pakistan was quite popular with the public, despite the fact that it deposed legtimately elected officials.

After the coup, the military officers who come into power usually first gather together a council of civilian technocrats and military officers to run the country on a temporary basis and impose some form of more or less severe martial law. Then, the ruling group typically either tries to hold new elections within a reasonable period of time, often under a revised constitution with limitations on who can run for office, or holds a shame single candidate election to legitimize the coup leaders as dictators.

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