Summer time coups

Talking to informed Mauritanians, some of them saw the coup coming during the summer (as it did), in the autumn, or not at all. My sense was always that the coup would come this summer (I never wrote this expressly but I expressed this view in discussion and refrained from commenting on the crisis (1) because Western Sahara Info. covered it well and there is not point in competing when you’re one of two or three bloggers paying attention to it, (2) I wanted to make sure that if I “predicted” it I would not be wrong; I could have said, “by the end of May/June/July/August Sidi’s government will be no more” and been wrong; I’m no weather man, and (3) I’ve yet to encounter a Mauritanian that had positive things to say about Sidi beyond his golden personality). One of the major pressures that forced Sidi to act the way he did towards the end was the threat of a commission being formed to investigate the financial side of his wife’s foundation, which would surely have done him in ever more deeply. The commission might even have made his administration’s ridiculous personal expenditures public. For instance, I am told that his air travels alone cost the state some UM2 billion, on chartered jets, his family, full entourage, and various other luxuries. He was between a rock and a hard place: Either he would be forced to step down (a la Olmert) in total shame, or he would be impelled to dissolve parliament and reorganize his government, which would precipitate a coup such as today’s, allowing him to save political face. Flanked on both sides, he moved in desperation and met his fate.

Those who thought it would have come later in the year thought so with no better reason than I thought it would come this summer. My only real reason for believing so was that most Arab coups tend to come during the summer. A summer time coup also means that forces that would ordinarily react most harshly and most swiftly are delayed because parliaments and other officials are often away on vacation, thereby delaying action that might be taken and softening blows that might come later on in the fall. It follows the strategic notion of moving when your adversary least expects it for maximum affect. The only Arab coup I can recall is the one that brought us Omar al-Bashir (which came sometime in December) and the January 1992 Algerian coup. The rest are Spring and Summer, to my knowledge (excepting the Syrian Ba’thi coups). The first Arab [successful] coup came in April, 1949, and most of the more notable ones are June and July putsches. The last Mauritanian coup was on 3 August, 2005. The Spring/Summer time frame is common throughout Africa as well, if I recall correctly.

Addendum: Thanks to alle for clarifications and reminders; There will likely be a Google spreadsheet/graph on this topic coming out within a week or so. I wouldn’t be too surprised if coups clustered around elections, deaths and warm weather seasons in the northern hemisphere. Just a hunch.

3 thoughts on “Summer time coups

  1. Hah, interesting. And nice of you to dig up old Hosni al-Zaim, even if I’ve always felt that it’s unfair the way people ignore the anti-Imam coup in Mutawakkili Yemen the year before (in the spring).

    Obviously THE Arab coup would be Abdelnasser’s July revolution, so that fits the pattern. But you have Hafez al-Assad’s “corrective movement” (November) and the 1966 neo-Baathist putsch in Syria (February), and the March 8 revolution in Syria 1963 (in March, obviously). The Naserites made a last stand in Damascus in the summer same year, and Boumédienne’s was a June coup, on the other hand, but the other big one in Algeria (1992) was January.

    This calls for another of them Google Sheets.

  2. You’re right about Syria and Algeria; foolish of me to forget two of the more important coups in my haste.

    The Google sheet sounds like a great idea. That will be the next project this weekend.

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