Politics in Minutes (2016)

Coup d’état

While some totalitarian regimes have been democratically elected and become gradually more authoritarian, others have seized power after a revolution or civil war has overthrown the previous government or ruler. Some have seized power from within, in a coup d’état. Unlike a revolution, which is characterized by a ‘bottom-up’ popular movement to remove an existing power, a coup, sometimes also known as a putsch, is when a faction within the establishment illegally seizes power and forces a ‘top-down’ change of regime, imposed by a minority of insiders on the majority population.

In order to retain power, the usurpers almost invariably introduce authoritarian laws and take forcible measures to prevent resistance. As with most totalitarian regimes, they are usually led by a charismatic figure such as Napoleon (opposite), who assumes the role of dictator, or even emperor, and more often than not as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, to intimidate any potential opposition.