Politics in Minutes (2016)

Military juntas

It is always wise to have military backing to enforce unpopular authoritarian control and many dictators have courted the armed forces both before and during their rule. Some, such as Idi Amin Dada and Francisco Franco, had a military background themselves, which they stressed by being frequently seen in uniform, and even civilian dictators have accorded themselves a spurious military rank. But the military themselves do sometimes come to power in a coup d’état, particularly if they have lost confidence in their civilian rulers. The military leaders then form a government known as a junta, taking over control of the state, as happened under the colonels in Greece between 1967–74 and Chile in 1973–90. A military junta is by nature authoritarian and hierarchical, and once in power difficult to remove. Juntas often come to power at times of national crisis or conflict, such as during a civil war, justifying their takeover as politically neutral and acting in the national interest, but this may be a pretext for an ambitious faction within the forces to seize dictatorial power.