Riots and the Window of Opportunity for Coup Plotters: Evidence on the Link between Urban Protests and Coups d'Ètat

Gerling Lena

This paper investigates the impact of urban protests on coup attempts in a sample of 39 Sub-Saharan African countries for the period 1990 to 2007. Widespread public discontent, especiallywhen occurring in urban centers, can act as a trigger of coups d'état in autocratic regimesby opening a window of opportunity for leadership removals by the ruling elite. The main difficultyin testing this relationship is that public revolts are rarely exogenous to coup risk. Toaddress this problem, variation in rainfall is used to create an instrument for urban protests. Theresults show that rainfall-related popular uprisings in urban areas increase the likelihood of acoup attempt and thus help to solve the collective-action problems associated with coup plots.

Coup d'Ètat, public protest, regime change, autocracy

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CIW Discussion Paper Series

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