Coup or not Coup?

When is a coup a coup, and when isn’t?

In Egypt the military have recently taken over the government, and arrested the country’s president (not quite the democratic process prescribed by the country’s laws and constitution), however many people claim this is not a coup, but a step to get the country’s democracy back on track (

In Italy, because the judiciary has determined to apply the law, and try and avoid breaching the statute of limitation term for proceedings against a defendant (as the law dictates), they are being accused of effectively staging a coup ( The reason for this is that the defendant happens to be a renowned politician (who although found guilty of criminal offences several times in the past, has benefited from statute of limitations terms, thanks to the peculiarities of the Italian justice system, see

Now according to the Oxford Dictionary, a coup (French word for “blow”, used in the French expression “coup d’état”) as a “sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government”.

Let’s see how this applies.
In the Egyptian case, the existing government lost power, as it was seized by the army. It was sudden, as it happened in a matter of a few days. It was illegal, as it did not follow the procedures established by the laws and the constitution in force in the country, and there was violence as there were fatalities (although some argue less that there could have been).
In the Italian case, the government is still in power, so no power seizure happened, that straight away goes against the definition of coup. Furthermore there is no question of illegality, as the fact being condemned as a coup is in effect a consequence of applying the law (by definition applying the law cannot be illegal!).

So again, what is a coup and what isn’t? My opinion is here. What’s yours?


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