British protesters have been taking to the streets in London this week, chanting “Stop the coup.”
The move was intended to blunt an effort by opposition parties to halt his Brexit plan, which includes leaving the European conglomerate regardless of whether there is an exit deal in place.
Johnson argued he chose this route merely to outline the government’s “very exciting agenda” under his new leadership. He has also repeatedly tweeted that the Brexit “referendum result must be respected.”
Protesters who took to the streets earlier this week accused Johnson of violating the democratic integrity of the country.
“We’re here to fight for our democracy,” protester Dylan Butlin told Reuters on Wednesday.
“Democracy is so important, it’s taught from such a young age as such a vital thing about being a British person and today just completely ruins that, tramples it and throws it out.”
Smaller rallies took place outside London in other towns and cities. A petition on a government website demanding that Parliament not be suspended got more than 1 million signatures — guaranteeing that it will be considered for debate.
And it’s not just protesters who accused the prime minister of a coup.
U.K. Labour Party home affairs spokeswoman Diane Abbott accused Johnson of a “coup against parliament.” Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, also said “it is reasonable to describe the act as a coup d’état.”
British newspapers, such as the Independent, also used the term with headlines such as “The Johnson Coup.” Some European news outlets labeled the move “a very British coup.”
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But is it really a coup?
According to Oxford Dictionary, coup means: “A sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power by government.” BBC News explained a coup can involve things like taking over buildings, holding people hostage, and hacking state media.
In 2013, for example, Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi was ousted as president and replaced by Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Demonstrations and protests surrounding the forced swap of power led to many people being killed.
A similar coup was attempted in Turkey in July 2016. The failed takeover left 241 dead and another 2,194 injured.
That’s not happening in the U.K.
Some have argued what’s happening is a different type of coup.
One columnist for The Guardian, Martin Kettle, wrote that what’s happening is “a very particular coup” that is being used to get a no-deal Brexit.
“No deal is thus the logical outcome of May’s overthrow and of Johnson’s victory. But it is not what the nation wants. No deal is opposed both by a majority in parliament, including a significant number of Tories, and by a majority of the public. That is why it is right to call this a hard Brexit coup,” he wrote.
Kettle added that such emergency measures could be understandable in times of real urgency and war, but this is not the case right now.
Andrew Glencross, a senior politics lecturer at Aston University in Birmingham, U.K., told Global News Radio on Thursday that what Johnson is really doing is gambling with the future and stifling democratic dialogue.
“It’s the kind of thing that you read about in books about the French revolution or the prelude to the English civil war. Proroguing parliament in a British context quite a scary thought.”
Glencross said the move also puts opposition parties in the spotlight, with many Britons playing close attention to how they will address Johnson’s controversial moves.
— With files from Reuters