Commentary on Turkey’s Coup

Jonathan Powell, Assistant Professor of political science at UCF, recently published two commentaries at the Washington Post on Turkey’s failed July coup attempt. The first, coauthored with Curtis Bell of One Earth Future and titled “Turkey’s coup attempt was unusual, but not for the reasons you might expect,” discussed a puzzling trend in the development world: recent years have seen military coups become more likely to target leaders in democracies than in dictatorships. The trend seems to be especially strong for democracies backsliding toward authoritarianism, as seen in Turkey under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. However, the Turkish case sticks out from other recent coups against elected leaders in that the country had not as much widespread anti-regime sentiment as seen in other recent coup cases. In contrast, President Erdoğan had seen strong support in recent elections, with his Justice and Development Party gaining dozens of seats in the 2015 general election.

The second commentary, also coauthored with Curtis Bell, is titled “Will Turkey’s coup attempt prompt others nearby?” Here the authors briefly discuss a purported “contagion” effect, in which a coup attempt might act as a cue to militaries in other countries. In contrast to this view, Powell and Bell suggest a more likely scenario in which other leaders—having seen what happened in Turkey—are more likely to preempt coups by introducing coup-proofing efforts and implementing repressive practices prior to a plot being undertaken against them. Using novel data, the author show that political developments in one country can have important implications elsewhere in the world.

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