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Counterbalancing, Spatial Dependence, and Peer Group Effects*

  • Tobias Böhmelt, Andrea Ruggeri and Ulrich Pilster

Previous studies identified several domestic factors that may influence a country’s level of structural coup-proofing, i.e., counterbalancing strategies that shall prevent internal groups from seizing power via a coup d’état. We suggest that a country’s level of counterbalancing is also affected by such policies in what we term countries’ “peer groups.” When deciding the appropriate level of counterbalancing, rulers may be affected by external information flows from a “peer group” with similar structural coup-risk characteristics (institutions) or a similar coup-risk experience (coup history). Using maximum likelihood spatial lag models and data in 1976–2005, we find that leaders learn from and emulate counterbalancing in other states, but rather only through an “experiential peer group.”

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Tobias Böhmelt is a Reader in the Department of Government, University of Essex, Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK, and Center for Comparative and International Studies, ETH Zurich, Haldeneggsteig 4, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland. Andrea Ruggeri is an Associate Professor at Brasenose College, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. Ulrich Pilster is a Research Fellow of the Department of Government, University of Essex, Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK. We thank Jacqueline H.R. DeMeritt and Ursula Daxecker for useful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. We are also grateful to the journal’s editor, Vera Troeger, and the anonymous reviewers for their numerous suggestions that helped to improve the article. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit

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