How to predict a coup

After successfully anticipating events in Mali and Guinea-Bissau last year, what does the scientific crystal ball have in store next?

Which countries are most likely to see a coup this year? Political scientist Jay Ulfelder (if you are not already regularly reading his blog, go there now and subscribe) unveiled an index that attempts to answer that question early last year. With the mixed reports about a possible coup attempt in Eritrea recently, Max Fisher penned a post  (worth reading in full) that uses Ulfelder’s data on which countries are at the greatest coup risk.

What stands out is the visualisation of the data on a map done by Fisher. Africa lights up the globe with quite a few countries that make it into the top portion of the list. Ulfelder explained his index in Foreign Policy after successful coups in Guinea-Bissau and Mali last year.

In fact, most countries in the top 20 land there because they are poor and have competitive authoritarian or partially democratic political regimes. Unsurprisingly, coups also turn out to be a recurrent problem; the risk is higher in countries that have experienced other coup attempts in the past several years, a factor common to the top eight countries on this list. Active insurgencies also increase the risk of a coup, and this factor affected the 2012 forecast for countries like Ethiopia, Mali, and Sudan. Ditto for civil wars and popular uprisings in regional neighbors and slow economic growth, common themes in several regions, including west and central Africa.

It is no surprise that Mali and Guinea-Bissau are high on the list for 2013. Ulfelder is often quick to point out the flaws of any index. However, his larger point is to show where risks may lie and provide some clarity when coup rumors start to emerge in countries that are relatively stable.

Here’s the top 30:
1. Guinea-Bissau
2. Sudan
3. Mali
4. Madagascar
5. Mauritania
6, Guinea
7. Chad
9. Niger
10. Timor Leste
11. Lesotho
12. Haiti
13. Cambodia
14. Ecuador
15. Afghanistan
16. Nigeria
17. Bangladesh
18. Mozambique
19. Central African Republic
20. South Sudan
21. Ethiopia
22. Tanzania
23. Yemen
24. Ivory Coast
25. Syria
26. Rwanda
27. Burkina Faso
28. Zimbabwe
29. Gambia
30. Liberia © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds