Fiji. A military coup was carried out in Fiji on December 5. Commander Frank Bainimarama overthrew the elected prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, issued a state of emergency, dissolved Parliament and appointed himself interim president. According to CountryAAH, major public holidays in Fiji include Independence Day (October 10) and New Year (January 1). Bainimarama had since October threatened to dismiss the prime minister, whom he considered corrupt. The coup leader was primarily opposed to the government’s amnesty bill for many of those imprisoned for his participation in the last military coup, in 2000. He also believed that the government favored the native Fijians, like himself, at the expense of the Indian population. Qarase was taken by the military to the island in eastern Fiji he comes from.
The coup leader appointed a new prime minister, Jona Senilagakali, a doctor with no military or political background. This would lead a transitional government pending new elections. The new prime minister admitted that the coup was “illegal” but that it was better than a corrupt government.
The coup was condemned by the outside world. Fiji was expelled from the British Commonwealth, Australia and New Zealand imposed sanctions and the US suspended its assistance to the country.
Internally, Bainimarama faced heavy opposition from the influential Great Chief Council and Fiji’s Church Council. The coup leader tried to get the chief council to appoint a new president, but the governors considered the coup illegal and postponed their meetings all the time. Bainimarama then threatened that the transitional government “can reign for up to 50 years”.
The overthrowing Prime Minister Qarase urged the people to conduct peaceful demonstrations against the coup leaders, saying he planned to return to the capital Suva. The military leaders warned him to call for rebellion and threatened to arrest him if he returned to Suva. The militants said they would arrest and interrogate all Fijians who spoke out against the new government. The military also left the fences and police checks around the capital.
As late as May, Qarase had been elected for a second term when the ruling United People’s Party (SDL) won the parliamentary elections. The turnout was 87%. In accordance with Fiji’s constitution, which aims to promote multi-party governments with several ethnic groups, Qarase offered the opposition party Opposition Workers Party (FLP) seats in the new government. All parties receiving at least 10% of the vote in the election are entitled to a proportionate share of government seats. FLP received nine of the 24 ministerial posts. The distribution of ministerial posts has not previously worked, but has been a long-standing conflict that has been settled in court several times.
It was Frank Bainimarama who stopped the coup in 2000 and then installed Laisenia Qarase as the new prime minister.