2019 Report on Risk of Coup
Political Forecasting, CoupCast

Annual Risk of Coup Report - 2019

Author(s): Jay Benson, Matthew Frank, Clayton Besaw, Jonathan Powell, Eric Keels
Date: April 26, 2019
Research Topics: Political Forecasting, CoupCast


The goals of this first ever Annual Risk of Coup Report are two-fold. First, it provides an in-depth global and regional look at the likelihood of coup events for 2019 based on a combination of quantitative forecasting and qualitative analysis of specific coup-prone states. Examining historical trends, it provides analyses on the risk of coup events and the geographic hotspots for the coming year. This information is further broken down regionally by examining Asia, the Americas, and Africa individually. These regions represent the most recent hotspots for coup events, thus warranting a closer look at the most coup prone countries for 2019 and the reasons why they are more likely to face a coup attempt. 

Second, our forecast and analysis are not meant to supplant incredibly important regional and political expertise surrounding coups and political instability, but to add to it by using a different kind of tool-kit for forecasting future coup risk. Coups, and political instability broadly, are unique, and no single quantitative forecast will provide perfect information about the risk governments face going into the future. Knowing this, we can still utilize historical trends in coup events alongside social, environmental, political, and economic data to identify the conditions in which individual coup plotters will make decisions. 

Key Findings:

  • Coup events (both attempts and successes) have declined considerably over the past two decades.
  • Even though coup events have declined globally, Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced a disproportionate number of coup events in the post-2000 time period. Roughly 70 percent of all coup events since 2000 have taken place in this region.
  • Greater democratization has changed the nature of coups. Less consolidated democracies face higher forecasted risks for a coup attempt, while elections were found to be triggers of coup risk.
  • The global forecasted risk of at least one coup attempt in 2019 fell to nearly 80 percent, compared to more than 90 percent in 2018.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa saw a decrease in the forecasted risk of at least one coup attempt in 2019 but remains comparatively high at roughly a 55 percent probability of at least one coup attempt.
  • Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Burundi, Mauritania, and Somalia are forecasted to be the top 5 most at risk countries for at least one coup attempt in 2019.
  • Across Asia, the Americas, and Africa, a history of coups, infant mortality rate, GDP per capita, and length of democracy, time since last incumbent electoral loss, and population size were found to be the biggest drivers of coup risk.
  • Qualitative assessment of at-risk countries within Asia, the Americas, and Africa found that each region contained diverse causes of political instability and unique drivers of coup-risk. Consequently, each region requires a tailored approach to mitigating coup risk for the most at-risk countries.
  • Given the unexpected failed coup in Gabon on January 7th, 2019, quantitative forecasting alone may not capture the full extent to which countries may risk a coup. The analysis of three low-risk African countries highlights that expert knowledge is necessary to bridge the gap between macro-quantitative forecasting and the potential micro-dynamics driving coup risk.

Related Publications

Global Fragility Act - Report

New OEF/Alliance for Peacebuilding Report Provides Recommendations for implementing the Global Fragility Act

Written by Conor Seyle, Elizabeth Hume, Jessica Baumgardner-Zuzik, Eric Keels, Dianna E. Almanza on June 1, 2020

In late 2019, the US government passed the Global Fragility Act as part of the consolidated budget appropriations act.  The Global Fragility Act is a major attempt to redesign how the United States approaches fragility and

Read more
Recent Trends in Civil War Dynamics

Reassessing Rebellion

Written by Jay Benson, Joshua Lambert, Eric Keels on March 15, 2019

Though historically the number of armed conflicts has been declining, there has been a recent surge in ongoing civil wars. Intrastate armed conflicts therefore represent a persistent and dangerous threat to global stability.

Read more

Improving Election Prediction Internationally

Written by Ryan Kennedy, David Lazer, Stefan Wojcik on February 3, 2017

Assumptions underlying election result predictions have been encountering wide criticism.

Read more
foreign policy analysis

Conditional Relationships Between Drought and Civil Conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa

Written by Curtis Bell, Patrick W. Keys on August 15, 2016

Few cross-national studies provide evidence of a relationship between environmental scarcity and conflict, although much of the literature claims that destabilizing effects of environmental crises can be mitigated by the right sociopolitical

Read more
Democracy and Coup d’État

Coup d’État and Democracy

Written by Curtis Bell on February 19, 2016

This article explains coup activity in democracies by adapting insights from the literature on commitment problems and framing coup around the threats leaders and potential coup plotters pose to each other.

Read more