As Failed Coups Go, Turkey Isn’t That Unusual

Only a minority of coups staged over the last 70 years were successful

Mourners at a service for victims of the thwarted coup in Istanbul. — Getty Images
Jul 17, 2016 at 11:12 AM ET

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continued to tighten his grip on the country on Sunday—two days after armed rebels tried to seize power in what turned out to be the latest in a string of failed coups worldwide over the last century.

Just 41 percent of 550 coups staged between 1946 and 2015 were successful, according to the Virginia-based Center For Systemic Peace, which defines a coup as a success if the self-appointed leaders manage to hold onto their new position of power for at least one month after a power shift.

On Sunday, Turkey was still reeling from its attempted coup d’etat by an armed faction. At least 265 people died, including civilians, police officers, and coup supporters, after army vehicles attacked buildings in the country’s capital Ankara and blocked bridges in Istanbul on Friday night, Reuters reported.

Erdoğan’s government said nearly 3,000 military members, including senior officers and foot soldiers, were arrested in connection to the group attempt. Reuters also reported that almost 3,000 members of the Turkish judiciary were detained over suspected ties to religious leader Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdoğan blamed for orchestrating the coup. Gulen and Erdoğan are former allies who split in 2013. Erdoğan has repeatedly blamed Gulen for trying to undermine his authority.

Some conspiracy theorists believed the attempted coup was “theater” aimed at strengthening Erdoğan’s authority, but many others threw their support behind the leader. Tens of thousands of tweets posted across the Middle East in the wake of the failed coup showed admiration for the president.