Zimbabwe and the rhetoric of coup plotters

Nov. 29, 2017 Weekly Graphs

When the military seized power in Zimbabwe on November 15, it carefully avoided to name it a “coup”. Instead, the army put forward a different story: They were only targeting “criminals” who were “causing social and economic suffering”. This week’s graph checks if coups are really as public-spirited as the generals claim! For this, we will compare three African countries where there has been a coup recently: Guinea, Niger, and Zimbabwe.

V-Dem’s particularistic or public goods indicator measures the extent to which national infrastructure and social expenditures benefit the society as a whole. On a five point scale, higher values represent a more public-oriented state budget, whereas lower values indicate larger particularistic shares.  

In Guinea in 2008, Captain Camara justified his coup with the country’s “deep despair” amidst poverty and corruption. When looking at the graph, we see a long-lasting decline in public good orientation – which was only to be stopped in 2008 by the junta. Likewise, in 2010 the revolting officers in Niger stated that they wanted “to save Niger from poverty, deception and corruption”. The graph shows that the provision of public goods increased after the army seized power and returned to the barracks in 2011. Finally, in Zimbabwe public-oriented expenditures have been falling since the mid-nineties, only to be interrupted by the period of the power-sharing with the opposition in 2009-2013. Since then, particularistic expenditure has been more prevalent than ever before. If the Zimbabwean generals will turn the tide – despite being involved in the patronage system themselves – the future will show.

If you want to know more about recent democratic developments in Africa, use our online analysis tools at v-dem.net. 


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