The Causes of Fiji's 5 December 2006 Coup
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis looks at the causes behind Fiji’s 5 December 2006 coup. It takes a twofold approach, first looking at the background causes which illustrate that Fiji was vulnerable to a further coup after the 2000 coup. The study then moves on to an analysis of the triggering causes. This analyses both the motive; consisting of threats to the military’s interests and failures of the government, and the opportunity, consisting of a deflation in the government’s legitimacy and military cohesion. To test these factors a cross-time comparison of the five instances of high tension between the Fijian military and Government is presented in an effort to identify how the coup differed from those disputes that preceded it. These periods of tension are: the 2004 reappointment of Bainimarama; the Unity Bill dispute; the January 2006 coup threat; the 2006 election; and the December 2006 Coup. From this analysis it was found that threats to the military’s interests were key in generating the motive for intervention, but that governmental failures were not a significant factor; while they motivated the military to be a vocal actor, they did not garner the motive for intervention. The opportunity was only found to occur when there was both a deflation in the Government’s legitimacy and strong military cohesion. For Fiji’s 2006 coup the motivating factors were the threats to the military’s interests, from the scheduled Supreme Court ruling on the role of the military, the rivalry with the fully-armed Tactical Response Unit of the Police, and crucially the pending criminal charges against Bainimarama. This coincided with the opportunity for intervention from a drop in the Government’s legitimacy as a result of a crisis in the multi-party Cabinet and the Government’s growing ethnic bias, along with strong cohesion in the military.