visualize the data in a map (hat tip to A View From The Cave on Ufelder's index and Fisher's post). It is pretty interesting:
Now, Ufelder himself "quibbled" with the color-coding, saying, “the statistical models we can build with available data just aren’t precise enough to sort countries that finely, at least not in a reliable way," and added further clariciations at the end of Fisher's post. He regularly points out that we should not read too much into these numbers. So what am I about to do? Read too much into these numbers, and as usual my focus is Madagascar (*).
Madagascar "moved up a spot" this year, from 5 to 4, and the probability of a coup increased from about 0.8 in 2012 to about 0.10 in 2013. Now, we could explore everything that went into the algorithms, or bemoan the inclusion of Madagascar at the top of an ignomious poll once again (for details on Ufelder's algorithms, see his 2012 post). But rather than focusing on the prediction formulas and Madagascar's ranking, let's analyze the likelihood of a coup d'etat from a qualitative perspective. With the hopes of elections in 2013, it seems like a great time to ask: could Madagascar experience an attempted coup in 2013?
Potential Factor 1: Elections
The protagonists, former President Marc Ravalomanana and transition President Andry Rajoelina, have both pledged they will not run in the 2013 presidential election. Some observers are already hailing this as a major victory for the SADC's mediation efforts. Yet is it such a success? Despite his statement, Rajoelina seems reluctant to give up power, pushing back the presidential election date and simultaneously vowing to return in 2018. This is not a man who is done with politics. Many observers (myself included) question his motives, as he has broken promises numerous times in this process.
Scenario 1a: Rajoelina's reluctance to give up power (pre-election) leads to a coup to overthrow him [the military responds to Malagasy leaders' demands for impartiality and to act in the interest of the nation]
Scenario 1b: Rajoelina's reluctance to give up power (post-election) leads to a coup to keep him in power [since the military is in his pocket (see Factor 2)]
Scenario 1c: With the two major political forces out of the race and no commanding presence to replace them (seriously, who is next?), the military picks no side and the elections proceed relatively smoothly
Scenario 1d: Rajoelina delays the presidential vote indefinitely, then reconsiders his options based on the legislative election.
Analysis: Honestly, I think either Rajoelina will delay the election indefinitely. He may wait to see how his supporters do in the legislative round before deciding if he needs to stick to his promise on the presidential election. If at that point he does stand down, the military will sit out the election. Most of their involvement in politics has been to support one opponent or another, not as an independent force (see below). I cannot see the military rising up against Rajoelina, and if he wanted them to rise against an opponent, he would need a popular opponent who also has many detractors throughout the nation. As of now, does any such Malagasy politician exist?
|Aza Manadino ("Don't forget")|
In 2009, the military only turned against Ravalomanana late in the crisis. Even then, it was a pacified coup: I remember tanks rolling through the capital, right past the presidential palace, a few days before the soldiers actually stormed the palace. I guess it was a warning (or bad directions?), but the point is the military did not want it to be a fight. I often refer to it as a political coup d'etat rather than a military one. Indeed, there have been quite a few "coup attempts" by the military, but as I summed up a few years ago, none were too impressive. The most recent "coup attempt" was subdued quickly with payoffs, and conspiracy theorists structured semi-plausible ideas where Rajoelina supporters constructed the attempt to delay political negotiations to end the crisis. Unlikely, but that did lead me to re-examine the state of the Malagasy armed forces. We saw then a top-heavy institution which Rajoelina liberally littered with promotions and pay-raises to maintain officer loyalties. He recently promoted another 26 officers, so he should be confident of their present support.
Scenario 1a: The military rises against Rajoelina
Scenario 1b: The military rises to keep Rajoelina in power
Scenario 1c: The military does nothing, biding its time while awaiting an electoral victor (and possibly a new patron)
Analysis: 1a is no good - Rajoelina's support is too strong. 1b may sound like a possibility, but 1c strikes me as the most plausible: the military should know it can receive similar favors from any leader who wants to stay in power. Furthermore, a free-and-fair election should open the floodgates of foreign aid once again, and that may help increase the military's budget along with the rest of the national budget (along with international training programs and cooperation).
Potential Factor 3: Munitions
What about the proliferation of small arms in Madagascar over the last few years? Tananews had a fascinating example of this, focusing on the UK's concerns over their firearm sales to Madagascar. "MP Bob Stewart acknowledged that the UK has issued export licences for enough weapons to Madagascar and Oman to “make a pretty good army”." Anecdotal reports do seem to confirm that violence is up, and there seem to be more guns in the country. Yet for the most part, these are used for banditry and other crimes. The British seem concerned their weapons will have a political effect: "Arms exported from the UK should not serve to help perpetuate an illegitimate leader in power or to prolong a political and economic crisis." In reality, and as the report mentions, many of the weapons leak out of the military and police to private citizens for purposes of cattle thievery (Dahalo), rosewood harvesting, or other criminal activity. It is difficult to see how more weapons could lead to a coup (or a counter-coup); after all, if the military want to bring down a regime or prop one up, they will not have any real competition. Unless the political environment changes drastically in the next few months and the military splits (or the army takes one side and the gendarmerie the other), I think this is a non-factor in terms of coup potential; in terms of the overall safety environment, it is quite concerning. But then, people who want to rob you will find a way to do it, whether with a gun, a knife, or a brick.
There are many other factors, of course. We could look at all of the pieces of Ufelder's quantitative algorithms through a qualitative lens. But that would be (even more) tedious. The existence of previous coup attempts, coupled with an on-going political crisis, a worsening economic situation, and the potential for a humanitarian disaster, lend credence to Ufelder's prediction of Madagascar as a probably coup victim. But I think the evidence points away from a real coup, and I know the Malagasy people are tired of violent changes. In fact, I still think a story from late 2009 displays the level of disinterest in the entire political crisis:
I was in my new market town/postal town, and was talking with one of the postal employees...We were talking about why Peace Corps left, citing the uncertain safety situation as a result of the “transfer of power” without getting into politics. I said we were able to return, and that living in the Ambanivohitra (countryside) we are removed from all the danger and political rallies and general craziness. His response was very poignant; he said that life in the ambanivohitra never really changes, no matter who is in power or what the people in the cities are doing. “Life is always hard in the ambanivohitra,” he said, “always difficult – sarotra faona.”And that was 3 years ago! Alright, time to wrap up this post. While lengthy, it was funworking through some thoughts. Feel free to share your own, and while you should not assume the above quantitative model means Madagascar will have a coup, do check out Ufelder's blog on this and other topics!
(*) Another interesting country in the top 10 is Timor-Leste, a country that is being heralded as a post-conflict success story after the UN's departure. Ufelder again urges caution though, noting: "Layered on top of Timor-Leste’s high poverty and hybrid political authority patterns, that recent coup activity greatly increases the country’s estimated risk. If Timor-Leste makes it through 2013 without another coup attempt, though, its estimated risk should drop sharply next year."