Ignoring the Spanish 1981 and Greek 1967 coups. Are there any other examples of the military attempting (or even managing) to overthrow an elected government in an advanced democracy in the western world (W-Europe, Japan, Canada, USA)?

The only example I can remember reading about is the 1933 Business plot.

Another example is the Algerian coup against de Gaulle in 1961.

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    How about the Third Reich? Aug 1, 2012 at 14:26
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    Japan is not usually considered "West". Aug 1, 2012 at 15:08
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    It seems to me that you are trying to define "advanced democracy in the western world" in such a way that it means "rich Western-european derived country that has a democracy that the military would never think of overthrowing".
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 1, 2012 at 16:29
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    @user357320 The Third Reich was strongly anti-democratic. Great Britain, the US, France, Canada, were all democracies, against whom the Third Reich attempted a military takeover during the Second World War. Aug 1, 2012 at 16:46
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    @user357320: I think Luke was referring to 1933, not 1944. Aug 1, 2012 at 23:40

7 Answers 7


Quite a few of them, especially in Central and South America.

Here are lists of attempted and successful coups d'etat, listed by date in the former, by nation in the latter.

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    Thank you for the information but I was asking specifically about the "western world", i.e. (W-Europe, Japan, Canada, USA)
    – Karlth
    Aug 1, 2012 at 13:36
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    Ah, you mean "First World Democracies" not "The Western World." In that case, both South Korea and Turkey qualify. Aug 1, 2012 at 14:34
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    and Greece, and Spain (the Spanish civil war...), there was some form of democracy in England before their civil war, the list goes on and on.
    – jwenting
    Apr 23, 2013 at 13:33

The 1973 Pinochet coup in Chile seems to fit the criteria you outline. A democratically elected president of a Western country ousted by the military.

The 1973 Chilean coup d'état was a watershed event of the Cold War and the history of Chile. Following an extended period of social and political unrest between the conservative-dominated Congress of Chile and the elected socialist President Salvador Allende, Allende was overthrown in a coup d’état.

The junta was composed of the heads of the Air Force, Navy, Carabineros (police force) and the Army, though Pinochet eventually arose to supreme power within a year after the coup, formally assuming the presidency in late 1974. Pinochet later assumed power and ended Allende's elected Popular Unity government, instigating a campaign of terror on its supporters which included the murder of former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier. Before Pinochet's rule, Chile had for decades been hailed as a beacon of democracy and political stability in a South America plagued by military juntas and Caudillismo.


Poland - ("Zamach majowy" - May coup) - parliamentary democracy from 1918, successful coup d'etat of Józef Piłsudski in May 1926, and then authoritarian rule of Piłsudski's party up to 1939.


Britain, dictatorship 1653-1658

France, absolute monarchy until 1789, then dictatorship (1799), absolute empire (1804), again monarchy (1814), then dictatorship (1848) and absolute empire again (1852).

Germany, absolute monarchy (1871-1918), then dictatorship (1933)

Spain, absolute monarchy before 1873, restoration of monarchy by a coup (1874-1931), dictatorship 1936-1975

Finland, dictatorship 1939-1945

Italy, dictatorship (1922)

Note that regimes which were not mentioned as dictatorships are not necessarily democratic either.

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    Finland? Dictatorship? Dec 11, 2012 at 0:37
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    @Felix Goldberg, of cource.
    – Anixx
    Dec 11, 2012 at 2:19
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    @Felix Goldberg Mannerheim got Commander in Chief in 1939 and refused to resign from this position in violation of constitution. The civil president Ryti became a figurehead with all questions decided by Mannerheim whose cult of personality developed (for example, in 1942 he was awarded a unique title of Marshal of Finland, invented specially for himself). In 1944 when Ryti resigned he became president without elections.
    – Anixx
    Apr 23, 2013 at 12:11
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    @Felix Goldberg In 1943 Mannerheim received only 146 votes out of 300 from the 1937 electoral college(not enough to become a president) so he decided to bypass that college next year and issue a direct parliament act. Anyway, as I said, there were no popular elections in Finland since 1937.
    – Anixx
    Apr 23, 2013 at 12:52
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    @RI Swamp Yankee because you were told so in school? It was quite classic dictatorship in the style of Italy/Spain/Hungary/Germany(before Hindenburg's death)
    – Anixx
    Apr 23, 2013 at 20:09

Rather a lot of Western European countries spent the modern era vascilating between Democratic and Authoritarian governments. This is common enough that it is common when talking about the modern history of said countries to refer to a period as either "The nth Republic" or "The nth Monarchy/Empire/Reich/Whatever".

Countries in this boat include Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, etc.

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    Poland is another one. Aug 1, 2012 at 17:03
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    Don't mistake revolt for a coup - a coup d'etat is specifically a complete takeover by part of the existing government - usually, but not always, this means the military. I don't think civil war or aristocratic rebellion counts. Aug 1, 2012 at 17:19
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    The OP didn't specify. Aug 1, 2012 at 17:20
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    @American Luke Poland is not usually considered "Western".
    – Anixx
    Dec 16, 2018 at 13:02
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    @Anixx - Its not usually considered "Western European", that is true. However, AL is quite right that its another country that had to resort to numbering its Republics.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 17, 2018 at 17:44

I would characterize the 1973 overthrow of Chile's Salvador Allende by GENERAL Augosto Pinochet as an example of a "military takeover of a democracy in the western world."


Chile was a western democracy in 1973. People might debate as to whether or not it was "advanced."

  • Duplicate of an answer above by Andrew Turvey. Apr 23, 2013 at 14:06
  • @coleopterist: I gave a few more details. You and I are on the ELU SE, and here's what they had to say in meta meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/2054/… .
    – Tom Au
    Apr 23, 2013 at 14:39
  • @coleopterist: Differences? 1) A reference to 1973 2) a reference to GENERAL Pinochet 3) A qualification that some people might non consider Chile "advanced." Plus Allende's name and a link, as you noted. And here's what a moderator had to say about "duplicate": "Generally, we don't delete answers that are duplicates of other answers unless the new answer has essentially been copy-pasted from the original." Your standard is the one they use for QUESTIONS.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 23, 2013 at 15:39

Dublin, Easter Monday (April 24) 1916

  • That really doesn't qualify as an answer. Needs a bit more in the way of explanation and citation.
    – MCW
    Apr 26, 2013 at 15:08

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