Last month’s coup d’état against Turkey’s President Erdogan failed, but between 1950 and 2010, on average a coup had a 50-50 chance of succeeding.
Jonathan Powell and Clayton Thyne from the University of Kentucky examined 450 from that 60 year period, and found that 227 – 49.7% – were successful. And the plotters seemed to be improving, because those mounted since 2003 had a 70% success rate.
But coups have become less common. Their heyday was the 1960s, when there were about 15 a year. By the first decade of the new millennium that was down to 5 a year. One reason may be that the world is getting richer. Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler of Oxford University found that if people’s average incomes doubled, the risk of a coup fell by more than a quarter.
As to the ingredients of a successful coup, there seems a fair degree of consensus – detain key leaders, take over key media outlets, control key transport arteries. The Turkish plotters failed to implement these properly, but perhaps a new factor was at play – social media, which President Erdogan used very effectively to rally support.