Coups d’état have been existent from the biblical times when people attempted to seize power from those who did not have democratic sensibilities and suitable royal blood. These happen abruptly, unlike revolutions, and they involve a small group of high-ranking officials, backed by the military.
From the time of Napoleon to Pinochet, we are going to look at the top 5 classic coups in which existing regimes were deposed from one day to the next.
- Napoleon Bonaparte
Immediately after coming from his Egyptian military campaign in October 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte started to make plans on how he would overthrow the five-member Directory that was in control of France. Of course some other high-level co-conspirators were supporting him to arrange a special legislative session to occur outside Paris on November 10th. His scheme was to use bribery, propaganda and intimidation so that he would cajole the legislation to put him into leadership. The lower house however chanted him out: “down with the dictator,” they sung, chasing him out of the chamber. But he was able to prevail by asking the troops to clear the area and then – trying to remain within the constitution – he used a small group of handpicked legislatures to appoint him to a 3-member Consulate. Napoleon finished his ascend to power in 1804 when he crowned himself the emperor.
- Francisco Franco
After the leftist coalition became victorious in the Spain elections of February 1936, General Francisco Franco was sent to a post in the remote Canary Islands. Although he was hesitant to join some of his army officers in coup suggestions, he finally agreed to take part after a conservative politician was assassinated. On July 18, Franco broadcast a manifesto imploring the military to overthrow the democratically elected government. As army garrisons all across Spain heeded his call, he then secretly flew from the Canary Islands to Spanish-controlled Morocco, where the uprising had begun a day earlier, and took charge of the battle-hardened troops stationed there.
The coup attempt got partial success which left Franco’s rebels in charge of just one-third and leading to a civil war that would go on for three years. But he became victorious in the end. With the support of the Catholic Church, monarchists, fascists and the landed gentry, he would rule Spain as a dictator until he died in 1975.