Analysts on Capitol Hill 'attempted coup': It didn’t quite get there

Social media was abuzz with the words 'attempted coup' but analysts are divided on whether that’s an accurate characterisation.

Trump supporters face off with police and security forces in front of the US Capitol in Washington DC on 6 January 2021. Donald Trump's supporters stormed a session of Congress to certify Joe Biden's election win. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - World leaders decried the action and US legislators, both Democrat and Republican condemned the storming of the Capitol as an insurrection and an assault on democracy.

Social media was abuzz with the words “attempted coup” but analysts are divided on whether that’s an accurate characterisation.

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Political professors agree that a coup d’etat is an unconstitutional seizure of power and that a sitting head of state or government can commit it.

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But professor Hoolo Nyane said trump and the Capitol Hill rioters didn’t quite get there: “We’ve seen it in Lesotho in 1970 when the then-Prime Minster Leabua Jonathan simply refused to hand over the reins of power after plainly losing an election.

“So, these shenanigans and theatrics that Trump is staging in my view don’t qualify as a coup, they are concerning and may constitute certain crimes but not the crime of treason or a coup.”

But professor Tinyiko Maluleke disagreed: “I think the best description is an attempted coup because it was intended to undermine the certification of the next president of the US to stop that process and with that process stopped, you can’t have the next president. It was an attempt to extend the presidency of Donald Trump.”

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Maluleke said Trump clearly whipped up the protesters, but many Republican legislators were complicit in their actions.

“Even before they stormed Capitol Hill there were Republican politicians who had argued and disrupted the proceedings arguing that the election was not legitimate.”

The storming of the Capitol building drew global condemnation, but it did not achieve the goal of halting the process with congress formally certifying Joe Biden’s election victory earlier on Thursday.

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