Political Fragility: Coups d’État and Their Drivers


Aliona Cebotari ; Enrique Chueca-Montuenga ; Yoro Diallo ; Yunsheng Ma ; Rima A Turk ; Weining Xin ; Harold Zavarce

Publication Date:

February 16, 2024

Electronic Access:

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Disclaimer: IMF Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to encourage debate. The views expressed in IMF Working Papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management.


The paper explores the drivers of political fragility by focusing on coups d’état as symptomatic of such fragility. It uses event studies to identify factors that exhibit significantly different dynamics in the runup to coups, and machine learning to identify these stressors and more structural determinants of fragility—as well as their nonlinear interactions—that create an environment propitious to coups. The paper finds that the destabilization of a country’s economic, political or security environment—such as low growth, high inflation, weak external positions, political instability and conflict—set the stage for a higher likelihood of coups, with overlapping stressors amplifying each other. These stressors are more likely to lead to breakdowns in political systems when demographic pressures and underlying structural weaknesses (especially poverty, exclusion, and weak governance) are present or when policies are weaker, through complex interactions. Conversely, strengthened fundamentals and macropolicies have higher returns in structurally fragile environments in terms of staving off political breakdowns, suggesting that continued engagement by multilateral institutions and donors in fragile situations is likely to yield particularly high dividends. The model performs well in predicting coups out of sample, having predicted a high probability of most 2020-23 coups, including in the Sahel region.


Working Paper No. 2024/034





Publication Date:

February 16, 2024



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