Whereas the vast majority of successful coups before 1990 installed their leaders durably in power, between 1991 and 2001 the picture reverses, with the majority of coups leading to competitive elections in 5 years or less. We argue that with the end of the Cold War, outside pressure has produced a development we characterize as the “electoral norm” – a requirement that binds successful coup-entrepreneurs to hold reasonably prompt and competitive elections upon gaining power. Consistent with our explanation, we find that post-Cold War those countries that are most dependent on Western aid have been the first the embrace competitive elections after the coup. Our theory is also able to account for the pronounced decline in the non-constitutional seizure of executive power since the early 1990s. While the coup d’etat has been and still is the single most important factor leading to the down- fall of democratic government, our findings indicate that the new generation of coups have been considerably less nefarious for democracy than their historical predecessors.
I would suggest that an increase in the density of military-to-military ties, as well as a qualitative change in the content of the norms transferred through those ties, probably plays a large role in this finding. In any case, it’s very good news for Egypt. It’s also interesting that the protesters as a whole seem to perceived the military in a way that’s compatible with this finding, even though Mubarak stacked the senior leadership with his own people. While we wouldn’t want to assume that the impact of transnational ties was determinative, there nevertheless appears to be strong reasons to believe that they had some effect.