Political regimes will survive even intense mass protests as long as the security elite abstains from defecting. However, empirical and theoretical work has shown that coups, as the active form of security-elite defection, become more likely under mass protests. Still, many regimes collapsed under mass protests without a coup ever happening. In these no-coup situations, we demonstrate, using case studies, that the security elite did in fact abandon loyalty to the regime, albeit in a passive fashion. We develop a model that explains why mass protests can induce the security-elite members to coordinate on passive security-elite defection, thus paving the way for a full-fledged revolution. With our model, we work out the parameters under which passive security-elite defection is likely. Finally, by systematically relating our model to our cases, we demonstrate how mass protests triggered security-elite defection in a number of particular historical cases of revolution.

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