Institutional Foundations of Military Coups: Constitutional Design and Military Centrality



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This dissertation examines how the likelihood of military coups varies depending on a country’s adopted institutions. I focus on two types of institutions—parliamentary versus presidential structures, and the military’s political, financial, and judicial privileges. In regard to the former, I propose a novel theoretical argument explaining why parliamentary systems experience fewer military coups. My argument relies on the inherent features of parliamentary systems, which potentially benefit the military elites such that they do not need to conduct a coup to get the policy outcomes and influence they seek. These features are (1) the presence of a government (coalition) formation process to select the chief executive after legislative elections and (2) the vote of no-confidence procedure to terminate a government early. Both of these features allow the military elites to influence the overall ideology of the government without resorting to a direct government takeover.
In regard to the second determinant, military privileges, I argue that the existing ways to capture military centrality, based on the number of military personnel and the military budget, fail to correctly measure the military’s political power. In a highly democratic country such as the US or in a highly authoritarian country such as China, these scores might be quite high, although the likelihood of a coup is definitely not. In this dissertation, I propose an alternative measurement method for the centrality of the military in politics that is based on certain military privileges: the existence of military-owned businesses, the extent of the jurisdiction of military courts, whether or not the chief executive or defense minister is a military officer, and how much military elites are respected during the state’s ceremonial meetings. Using this original measure, I also examine the relationship between the military centrality and the likelihood of coups.



Constitutional Design, Military coup, Military, Military Centrality, Presidentialism, Parliamentarism, Military Prerogatives