(French: “stroke of state”) Sudden overthrow, often violent, of an existing government by a group of conspirators. Coups are most common in countries with unstable governments and in countries with little experience of successful democracy. Their success depends on surprise and speed. Coups rarely alter a nation's fundamental social and economic policies or significantly redistribute power. Seealso military government, revolution.
Learn more about coup d'état with a free trial on Britannica.com.
One of the best modern examples of the self-coup is elected Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori's takeover of the government on April 5, 1992, ostensibly to exercise absolute authority in annihilating Maoist Shining Path insurgents, though political opponents and journalists were arrested by the military. A historical example was the coup d'état of Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, who granted himself emergency powers and later conducted a referendum in which he became Napoleon III.