Brookings Index of Regime Weakness | State Rebuilding or State Collapse in the Caucasus | The Annals of Data

Yet another index was released recently — Brookings Index of State Weakness in the Developing World. One professor of mine in graduate school, who was a veteran hot spot worker, related that all of the conflict professionals keep their eye on this map to see where they are going next. In this year’s version of the index, however, it’s where they already are: Somalia, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq top the list.

But how do the Caucasus fit in? A bit surprising, Azerbaijan (ranked 80th out of 141) is considered the weakest regime in the Caucasus. Indeed, the Azerbaijani government has accused Western governments of ranking Azerbaijan as worst on purpose.

So what’s behind the Azerbaijani rating? Much of this is because of Azerbaijan’s bottom quintile rating for the “incidence of coups” as well as it’s relatively low scores (second lowest quintile) on all but one variable in the political basket। Such data gels with the findings from the Bertelsmann Transformation Index, which we recently wrote about. But what about the political coups? As it turns out, it is the number of political coups since 1992 as rated by the Economist Intelligence Unit and something call Archigos 2.8. But, why has Azerbaijan had more coups than Georgia? Deeper into the halls of data we go.

Archigos is a dataset collected by Professor Hein Goemans of the University of Rochester, which contains a massive dataset on “the date and manner of entry and exit of over 3,000 leaders 1875 – 2004 as well as their gender, birth- and death-date, previous times in office and their post-exit fate.” So, what does this database have to say about coups in Azerbaijan? And why is Azerbaijan’s coup rating so much higher than Georgia’s, which arguably has had more coups of a sort?

Azerbaijan’s higher coup incidence hangs on definitions. According to the rules laid down by Professor Goemans, as long as political succession happens according to the laws of the country, even if a leader is removed extralegally, it is not considered a coup. Therefore, when Shevardnadze was toppled in 2003, it was not a coup according to the database because Nino Burjanadze became interim president, as stipulated by the constitution.

Hence, under Archigos’ definition Armenia has had no coups since 1992 and Georgia has only had one — when Jaba Ioseliani took over the reins of power from Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, has had two coups since 1992, according to the dataset: the ascension to the presidency of Isa Gambarov (now Gambar) and Əbülfəz Elçibəy (often written as Abülfaz Elçibay). Heydar Aliyev’s ascension is not considered to be a coup by the dataset.

Comments on these categorizations of coups in the Caucasus most welcome!