Democratic versus Authoritarian Coups: The Influence of External Actors on States’ Postcoup Political Trajectories

Clayton Thyne, Kendall Hitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Once considered artifacts of history, research on coups has burgeoned recently. Most studies focus on decisions to stage coups, considering factors like individual benefits, organizational interests, and government legitimacy. Less work considers what happens following coups. This article considers the political trajectory of states following coups. We argue that external reactions to coups play important roles in whether coup leaders move toward authoritarianism or democratic governance. When supported by external democratic actors, coup leaders have an incentive to push for elections to retain external support and consolidate domestic legitimacy. When condemned, coup leaders are apt to trend toward authoritarianism to assure their survival. We test our argument by considering how international responses to coups from states and international organizations influence coup states’ political trajectories. Our findings indicate that international actors play key roles in determining democracy levels of coup-born regimes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1857-1884
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Jesse Johnson, Jonathan Powell, members of the UK Political Science department symposium, anonymous reviewers, and the editorial staff for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • democratization
  • domestic politics
  • legitimacy
  • military intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (all)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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