2009 Questarian coup d'état

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Questarian troops in central Jesselton on the afternoon of the coup.

The 2009 Questarian coup d'état took place on the 28th February 2009, when the Questarian Combined Forces staged a coup d'état, suspended the constitution and introduced a military government. The coup was followed by martial law and mass arrests. The coup was preceded by months of political crisis revolving around high-profile corruption cases and was triggered by a constitutional crisis concerning the national omsbudsman tasked with investigating corruption. The government established a Committee of General Security to rule the country.

The military government had originally only intended to seize power temporarily, but after an internal coup, the Committee of General Security, under Field Marshal Richard George Rawlinson, ruled the country for five years until it was disbanded by 2014 by the armed forces. The Committee ruled with extreme authoritarianism, using state security agencies as secret police. At first, the military government was popular, but suppression of dissent and a deteriorating economic situation led to mass unrest, out of which the military government finally collapsed.

Background

Lars Marsden, Peoples Special Advocate 2008-2009.

The Constitution of Questers created a national omsbudsman, the Office of the Peoples Special Advocate, chosen by the College of Justice for life, and with nearly unlimited power to investigate corruption and misfeasance in public office, and allows the Peoples Advocate to call on the police and army to assist him in enforcing warrants and subpoenas. In 2008, the College of Justice accepted the resignation of the then Peoples Special Advocate, Winston Jenkins, on grounds of poor health. It appointed, with significant controversy, the Deputy Attorney-General, Lars Marsden.

Marsden immediately began an investigation into corruption inside the highest levels of government, responding to the 2007 and 2008 anti-corruption protests. In December 2008 he reported to the College of Justice that a group of high-ranking members of the Communist Party and Trades Union Congress were illegally embezzling funds from the Treasury's foreign exchange trades. Marsden issued a warrant for Sam Kelly, the Deputy Minister of Trade, who under interrogation admitted to using state funds to import a sports car from Van Luxemburg on top of an ordinary trade contract. When the Deputy Minister agreed to testify against other members of the government, he was detained by Party Intelligence. Marsden issued warrants for his release, but when Kelly returned from detention, he refused to testify.

Constitutional crisis

The Constitution grants the Communist Party and Trades Union Congress the right to modify most of its Chapters at Peoples Conferences, held every two years. Marsden learned that the delegates to the February 2009 Peoples Conference were planning to amend the Constitution in order to replace him with the Deputy Chairman of the Communist Party, Richard Grisham. Two days before the 2009 Conference Marsden issued a subpoena for all five hundred delegates to appear for questioning during the Conference dates. Marsden wrote to the Sheriff-General's Office informing him that if the delegates refused to honour the subpoena, Marsden was entitled to issue warrants for their arrest.

None of the delegates appeared, and on February 11th, the first day of the Conference, denounced Marsden as a counter-revolutionary and duly replaced him with Grisham. However, Marsden had already acted: at one minute past midnight, he and two other special counsel had deposited a warrant for the arrest of all the delegates for failure to appear at the Sheriff-General's Office and the Ministry of Defence. Marsden called the Chief of the National Defence Staff, Field Marshal James Dennis, directly after the Conference assembled. Constitutionally obliged, troops were then placed at Marsden's command. The Sheriff-General interrupted the Peoples Conference and a heated argument followed, during which the Sheriff-General said the phrase: "You are all technically under arrest." The Conference members resisted and expelled the Sheriff-General by throwing water bottles at him.

Rioters in Jesselton occupied the city centre.

It became immediately unclear as to who was the Special Advocate. The Conference should not have proceeded since it did not reach legal quorum, as all the members should legally have been elsewhere, but it reached a physical quorum and had otherwise legally amended the Constitution. Two days later major demonstrations broke out in most Questarian cities, with demonstrations in favour of, and against, both Marsden and Grisham. On the 20th of February, the Court of Establishment confirmed Grisham's appointment as Special Advocate. The demonstrations accelerated; police forces estimated that more than 10 million Questarians had taken to the streets on the 22nd of February, the vast majority anti-corruption movements. On the 23rd of February, Marsden was arrested by the Republican Homeland Security Office and charged with treason. The demonstrations turned to riots and civil disorder. When the RHSO published that Lars Marsden had been shot while attempting to escape custody, the riots further intensified until the Jesselton Police, followed shortly by the Altringham Police, admitted it had lost control of the situation on the early morning of the 28th. The Sheriff-General's Office telephoned the Chief of the National Defence Staff with the message that "all Police tactical units are in retreat. Request martial law." Field Marshal Dennis did not reply.

Coup d'etat

Questarian armoured vehicles secure a train station.
Mid morning of the 28th of February, Questarian troops occupied all national radio and television stations. National internet access was restricted to the Ministry of Defence website. Armoured vehicles took up positions at strategic sections of major national cities. The first indication that a coup was in place was when all radio channels began to play patriotic music at 11:11 AM. At mid-day state media began to replay a video and speech by Field Marshal Dennis:
Where the Constitution fails to answer political discord, and where the civil authorities are unable to contain popular outrage, it is the responsibility of the Defence Forces to guarantee civil order. It is therefore with a heavy heart, I announce it is my duty as Chief of the National Defence Staff to suspend the Constitution and to impose martial law. It is also my duty to report to the nation that the Defence Forces have placed into tmpo custody the delegates of the February Conference, the Cabinet of Ministers, and other government officials. In these extraordinary circumstances, the state authorities are now willing to grant amnesty to those involved in public disorder. It is now my sincere request that all people who have taken to the streets return to their homes.

Rioters met the arrival of troops with jubilation - for the first week of the coup, the military government was incredibly popular. Dennis established a Committee of General Security to act as the country's chief executive, with the ability to make decrees that could overpower the legislature. More than 650 government officials and party members were convicted on corruption charges and sentenced to long jail terms.

Aftermath

The Committee for General Security ordered all government agencies and the College of Justice to report directly to it. After four weeks it forced new elections in the Trades Union Congress and allowed the Congress to continue its role of administering the economy. Dennis set up a Constitutional Reform Hustings (CRH) in which a new constitution was debated, but after the Hustings collapsed following a series of disagreements, Dennis committed suicide on 20th December 2009. Although the County Sheriff's Office at the time ruled the death to be a suicide, a re-examination in 2015 changed the verdict to open verdict. Field Marshal Richard Rawlinson took over command of the Committee for General Security and abolished the Constitutional Reform Hustings. A series of pro democracy demonstrations on Christmas day were violently suppressed. Rawlinson would be the country's chief executive until 2014.

See also