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Fijian military carries out coup threat but leaves constitution intact

[JURIST] Fiji [JURIST news archive] military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama [BBC profile] has carried out a threat to remove the elected government from power unless current Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase [official profile] voluntarily resigned, a move Qarase flatly refused to consider [Fiji Times report], and has imposed military rule over the South Pacific island nation. Bainimarama initially threatened a military coup [JURIST report] against the current government in July 2005 and recently claimed to have received the support of Fijian President Ratu Josefa Iloilo [official profile], a fact the president strongly denies [press release, PDF; Fiji Times report]. Bainimarama first took control of Fiji and declared an interim military government in late May 2000 in response to what he considered an ineffectual response by the country's president to an attempted coup [JURIST report] led by Fijian nationalist George Speight against Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry.

Bainimarama said Tuesday that the country's constitution [text] will remain intact and that he will retain executive control of the government [Fiji Times report] until Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs appoints an interim president, adding that he fully expected Iloilo to be named to the post. Bainimarama also said that the respected military physician Dr. Jona Senilagakali would serve as interim prime minister until a new interim government was formed.

New Zealand and Australia have already issued strong condemnations of the military action and New Zealand has severed all defense and military treaties with the Fiji [PM statement]. Australia has promised to do the same once their sources confirm that the government has been removed from power. The Fiji Times has local coverage. AP has more.

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