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Interrogating the ‘Democratic Coup’ Thesis: The Limits of International Democratic Enforcement

Comparative Politics
Democratisation
International Relations
Oisin Tansey
Kings College London
Alexander Schmotz
WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Oisin Tansey
Kings College London

Abstract

Recent studies have suggested that in the post-Cold War world, political coups are much more likely to be followed by democratic elections than their Cold War predecessors. Several scholars have suggested that we live in an age of the ‘democratic coup’, and some have attributed this change to the increasing role of international democratic conditionality. Goemans and Marinov, for example, have suggested that aid-dependent developing countries are more likely to experience post-coup elections due to the leverage of Western conditionality. However, scholars have yet to examine the impact of democratic enforcement measures directly. We address this problem by using data on democratic sanctions to evaluate the effects of international democratic conditionality. We find that sanctions do not account for post-coup political trajectories as well as existing theories suggest, and that variation in post-coup outcomes requires attention not only to international forms of punishment, but also channels of autocratic linkage and sources of external sponsorship: where autocratic linkage was low, sanctions did increase the chances of post-coup democratisation; where autocratic linkage was high, they did not.