The Post-Endor Imperial power struggle was an internal conflict within the Galactic Empire lasting from 4 ABY to 8 ABY. The power struggle was a devastating episode for the Empire and resulted in the utter collapse of the Imperial hegemony and the elimination of more than half the Imperial military. The effects of the power struggle would allow the New Republic to establish its government, military, and economy.
Power struggle within the Empire was not a new concept. Emperor Palpatine fostered a system that promoted competition amongst his subordinates, ensuring that all remained loyal to his interests as they struggled amongst themselves. However, this very system would come to haunt the Empire as Palpatine had never intended to step down from the throne; through the Force, he intended to live forever. By law, the Imperial Senate would elect a new Emperor if Palpatine was removed from office. But Palpatine's machinations that resulted in the dissolution of the Senate nulled this law. Thus when Palpatine was killed aboard the second Death Star there was no system in place to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.
When word of Palpatine's death spread across the galaxy and through the Imperial ranks the struggle began in earnest. Fleet commanders, Moffs, and other dignitaries were quick to seize the opportunity and carve out fiefdoms for their own powerbase. At higher levels some planned to seize the Imperial throne for themselves and this conflict came to a head on Imperial Center itself.
As warlords emerged all across Imperial territory and threatened to destroy all that the Empire had established and maintained, the Imperial Ruling Council, the highest legal body remaining in the formal Empire, attempted to restore order. Sate Pestage, Palpatine's Grand Vizier and the executive of the Ruling Council, was clearly heading for the throne in the weeks after Palpatine's demise. This did not sit well with others on the Council; various Grand Moffs protested and threatened to withdraw their support should Pestage take the throne. The military leaders also threatened to abandon Imperial Center's defense and merge with the newfound warlord fiefdoms.
Pestage's biggest threat came from one Ysanne Isard, the head of Imperial Intelligence. Isard actively sought to remove Pestage from the picture and stake her claim on the throne. Several weeks before the Battle of Coruscant, she made her move; Intelligence agents moved in for the kill with support from some dissident military officers. The attempt failed and Isard was implicated; COMPNOR, which pledged its support to Pestage, retaliated in full-force. Imperial Security Bureau agents, in conjunction with CompForce, killed Isard and rounded up her supporters. The attempted assassination cast a poor light on Intelligence and ultimately lead to it being heavily reduced in size, scope, and funding. Due to COMPNOR's loyalty, it was rewarded with largely taking Intelligence's place and role, but the Intelligence bureau was not fully dismantled and continued to remain active throughout the entirety of the power struggle and beyond.
The growing conflict on Imperial Center came to a head when the Rebel Alliance invaded the system and gained the advantage over the Imperial defenders. Imperial defenses were greatly weakened when its commanding officer, Sinar Fenes, abandoned the system with a significant portion of the fleet. Fenes would become one of the earliest and significant warlords of the early power struggle; naming his armada the Red Fleet, he hoped to win over the support of nearby Imperial bases, such as O'Paal, and then retake Imperial Center once the Alliance had achieved control. He figured the Alliance would capture or kill the members of the Ruling Council in the process, taking them out of the picture for him, and thus he would be free to garner further support. Fenes' plans were foiled due to the escape of Pestage and the Ruling Council from Imperial Center; O'Paal refused Fenes' offer and retaliated, resulting in the warlord's death and the end of the Red Fleet.
Fenes' betrayal, however, proved significant. Historians later recounted that if Fenes had remained at Imperial Center's defense then the Alliance would have failed in its attack; if Imperial Center did not fall, then the Empire would have likely been able to regain its footing. But as a result of the fall of Coruscant, Pestage was removed from power due to fears of his inability to lead the Empire. The Council relocated to Dreven and sought new leadership.
The Imperial Ruling Council had reestablished itself as the Interim Ruling Council, composed of military leaders, Moffs, Advisers, dignitaries, COMPNOR and Intelligence leaders, and other Imperial nobles. Pestage was stripped of his post but remained active in the Council. New leadership was sought and found in Admiral Tagger. This Admiral controlled a sizable armada and had been one of the first to "go warlord." But the Council was desperate and offered Tagger the role of leading the Council, and thus the Empire, if he would return to the fold and grant his armada to be used against the Alliance, now the New Republic.
Tagger agreed and lent his armada, which significantly improved military numbers. His leadership fell into question, however. Single-minded, Tagger pushed to have the military reclaim Coruscant and reclaim the Empire's capital. This did not sit well with other military leaders, who realized Imperial strength was far too thin to concentrate for a single attack against heavily defended Coruscant. But Tagger's way followed through and his Emperor's Pride Fleet set forth to liberate the Imperial throne world. Unfortunately for Tagger, actions at the Battle of Bandomeer and leading up to the Second Battle of Coruscant resulted in the near annihilation of his armada. The Imperial attack was repulsed and Tagger returned in shame to Dreven. The Council revolted against Tagger and he was removed from office.
Another warlord, Dobbs, a former High General, was selected by the Council to head Imperial affairs at the end of 4 ABY. But Dobbs reign was very short-lived; he was executed by Wyth Skellheim in very early 5 ABY, a Dark Jedi who once served under Palpatine. Skellheim was one of the few Dark Side Adepts who remained within the Empire proper, seeking control for himself. Skellheim used his control of the Force to influence the Council and install himself as its leader.
Skellheim set about purging the Empire of undesirables, including Grand Moff Valence and other potentially dangerous officers and leaders. He promoted a campaign of aggression against the burgeoning warlord states that had so divided the Empire, but strange events occurred before he could set his plans into motion. Details were sketchy, but it was probable that the Force called out to Skellheim and forced him to abandon the Empire. This might have been the machinations of Alaric Darkstar, Bacharan Valak or Sabbathius Osbourne, three fellow Dark Jedi who sought to reign in control of the Empire. In any event, Skellheim disappeared from Dreven, leaving behind a power vacuum. Grand Admiral Thrawn and Dekan, Director of Imperial Intelligence, sought to gain control by inserting Holger as a puppet. Their attempt fails, and through this rose the aspiring warlord and Dark Jedi, Alaric Darkstar.
Darkstar was quick to call himself Emperor and few refused to oppose him; his control over the Force quelled dissent. But trouble reemerged in the form of Wyth Skellheim, having returned from his disappearance. Darkstar and Skellheim duked it out and split the Ruling Council in half as Councilmen and military commanders took either side. Darkstar emerged victorious, slaying Skellheim and retaining control. But the aftermath of the struggle left the Empire in poor condition. Many leaders were killed, including Moff Galenx, and Grand Admiral Thrawn withdrew his forces from the Empire. Before long Darkstar was forced to abdicate, paving the way for the ambitious Grand Moff Ariak Caldny.
A New HopeEdit
In less than two years the Empire was reduced from galactic hegemony to a backwater engulfed in a seemingly endless power struggle. The citizens of the Empire were in uproar and confusion as one leader after another came and went, and military morale was teetering near utter collapse. But events in early 6 ABY began to turn around Imperial misfortunes. Success in the Kessel Redoubt spread to Imperial units and lifted morale. Ariak was successful in regaining some lost territory to warlords and reintegrating Imperial units that had strayed from the Empire. The events of the Battle of Etti IV provided a great boost for both morale and Caldny's reputation, but on the whole failed to be a major strategic victory.
As Caldny seemed destine to take the throne for himself, a shadowy individual manipulated the Council and spread his influence across the Empire. Bacharan Valak, a former Admiral, had spent the years studying the ways of the Dark Side. His studies of Sith Holocrons taught him greatly and prepared him well for the coming tide. Towards the middle of 6 ABY, Valak made his move; Ariak peacefully abdicated his office and Valak emerged as the Empire's new leader without a shot being fired. Valak's rule was cemented and enforced throughout Imperial territory, and it was under his leadership that Imperial fortunes began to turn. He initiated the Death Star III project within the depths of the Faylar System and, through his military cunning and insight into the Force, reversed Imperial losses and eliminated opposing warlords.
The culmination of Valak's rise to power came in 7 ABY when he put an end to one of the last vestiges of internal opposition; the Vigilant Movement, led by Lorn Rhys, was integrated within the Imperial machine and had gained many new members. Headquartered at OS Redemption, the captured Pride-1 station, the Movement heralded the return of Palpatine and opposed Valak's rule. A calculated strike on Redemption resulted in the elimination of the Vigilant Movement; its leaders and members were rounded up and executed, although Rhys managed to escape and survive, albeit induced into a coma. But the event marked the beginning of the end of the post-Endor power struggle.
Valak had initiated many programs that revitalized the Imperial war machine. Shipyards were active, recruitment was high, and the factories were rolling out new machines for the military. The Death Star III was nearing completion and the Empire seemed ready to strike back with vengeance. With the destruction of the Vigilant Movement, Valak cracked down on the last of the warlords and their fiefdoms; if they did not surrender and bow to Valak's rule, they were utterly destroyed.
In 8 ABY, several months after the Caspian Annexation Campaign, Valak spoke before a reunited Galactic Empire from Castle Tsabak on Dreven and declared his coronation as Emperor. This event marked the end of the power struggle; no one within the Empire opposed Valak's rule, and the last of the warlords had been defeated, making Valak the first legitimate Emperor to succeed Palpatine. With Valak securely on the throne and a revitalized Imperial war machine at his disposal, he set his aims on the complacent New Republic and initiated the Great Campaign.
The power struggle was an important effort in galactic history. Although the Battle of Endor marked the death of Palpatine and the symbolic end of Imperial iron rule, it was the power struggle itself that saw the Empire fall from supreme power to backwater. The power struggle was a series of failed leaders taking the reigns of the Empire as ambitious and greedy Imperial commanders established fiefdoms for themselves, pitting Imperial against Imperial. The power struggle allowed the Republic to be born and grow, as the Empire was unable to focus its attention on its true enemy.
The end of the power struggle in 8 ABY marked the beginning of the Imperial resurgence, although it would not be the last power struggle to befall the Empire. Despite the power struggle, the Empire was able to regain lost ground and by 14 ABY reconquered much of its territory.