The Origins of Military Autonomy in Fiji: A Tale of Three Coups

Jon Fraenkel

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Alongside Thailand and Pakistan, Fiji has gained a reputation as the most coup-prone state in the Asia-Pacific region. Following a succession of coups, Fiji's military eventually established a longer-term authoritarian administration, inviting comparisons with Burma and Indonesia under Suharto, where military rulers also saw themselves as playing an overarching guardian role transcending ethnic cleavages. Yet, unlike Burma and Indonesia, Fiji's military has no heroic history of involvement in a national liberation struggle and faces no serious threat to territorial integrity. This article examines the dynamics of Fiji's three coups and the accompanying shifts in military orientation. During the initial coups, the military served principally as an instrument of the country's ethnic Fijian chiefly elite. Since the third coup, in December 2006, it has not only confronted key institutions of Fijian power, including the Great Council of Chiefs and the Methodist Church, but also dismantled core bases of Fiji Indian politics, including sugar cane farmers' organisations and municipal councils. International focus on the electoral timetable has distracted attention from these deeper-seated changes. Fiji has reached the end of a long era of bicommunal ethnic politics, with schisms amongst indigenous Fijian factions likely to dominate the country's politics in the future.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)327-341
    JournalAustralian Journal of International Affairs
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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