What Happens When Coups Fail? The Problem of Identifying and Weakening the Enemy Within

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8 Scopus citations


The ruler’s ability to cope with crises is critical for authoritarian durability. Yet, the coping mechanism—the actual management strategies by which rulers confront crises—is largely treated as a black box. This study takes a step in addressing this problem by examining how rulers use their appointment powers to manage the crisis that is the aftermath of failed coups. I argue that the principle challenge of this period is that rulers cannot identify the opposition and to cope, they deliberately infuse the center of the regime with officials from the periphery to dilute and ultimately weaken the invisible enemy they confront. Using a novel dataset on the appointments of mid and high level officials over the course of 34 years in Ethiopia, I find that the ruler relied considerably on outside officials following the failed coup in 1960 in ways he never did before or after the event.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1236-1265
Number of pages30
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • African politics
  • bureaucracies
  • cabinets
  • networks
  • non-democratic regimes


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