Popular Protest and Elite Coordination in a Coup d'etat
71 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2012 Last revised: 24 Apr 2014
Date Written: July 17, 2013
Elites face a daunting coordination problem when contemplating a coup. Citizens, who desire political reform, face a similar coordination problem when contemplating protest. Since elites and citizens interact with the same leadership, these coordination problems are invariably linked. We develop a model which exploits this link to isolate an informational mechanism connecting popular protests and coups. Protests aggregate citizen information and provide elites with a public signal which helps them coordinate in a coup. We show that elites "overreact'' to protest as a consequence of its publicity, and provide a microfounded explanation as to why elites use protests to facilitate coordination. Our model also suggests that protests in countries with media freedom better facilitate elite coordination. To test this, we examine how media freedom affects the relationship between protests and coups. The empirical analysis shows the effect of protests on coups is exacerbated in countries where media is free.
Keywords: Coups, Protests, Coordination, Public Information
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