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December 4, 2006
Fiji Suffers A Coup

The island nation of Fiji has apparently seen its government fall to a military coup, according to its prime minister. The Fijian president dissolved the national assembly and sent the army after Laisenia Qarase, who insists that the move has no legitimacy:

Fiji's president dissolved parliament on Tuesday and sanctioned the military to remove embattled Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, said New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who immediately imposed sanctions against Fiji's military.

Qarase, who is holed up in his residence in the capital Suva, said the military was staging a coup and he would not resign but would have to be forcibly removed from office. ...

Military commander Frank Bainimarama has repeatedly threatened to topple Qarase's government, which won a second five-year term in May, claiming it is corrupt and soft on those behind Fiji's last coup in 2000.

This is the third Fijian coup since 1987 and the first since the 2000 constitution required a multiparty democracy for the republic. Both the president and the PM have held power within the bounds of that constitution since its adoption. No longer. Fiji's military has fanned out, putting up roadblocks and establishing military authority. They have surrounded the PM's house, but thus far have not made a move to extract him.

Australia and New Zealand have reacted with alarm. John Howard sent three warships to prepare for an evacuation of Australian nationals if things get bloody, which set off a warning from Bainimirama about foreign intervention against the coup. Qarase actually went so far as to request that intervention, but Howard wisely declined to send troops on an invasion of Fiji. With his involvement in Iraq giving him enough political troubles, the last thing the Aussies need is another foreign military engagement.

Fiji has managed to overcome three of these coups in a generation, but seemingly cannot establish a stable democracy despite relative ecomomic success. The Australians will have to contend with more political instability in their region, which may wind up tying down Australian counterterrorism resources from use elsewhere.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 4, 2006 10:03 PM

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