Coup by Ballot

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Fiji’s opposition parties reached a deal Tuesday to form a coalition government, putting an end to the 16-year rule of Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of the South Pacific Island nation, Agence France-Presse reported.

The minor Social Democratic Liberal Party said it would join a broad coalition led by the People’s Alliance Party of two-time coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka, who is set to become Fiji’s next prime minister.

Details of the coalition deal are not yet clear, but they come days after Fiji’s parliamentary elections last week ended in a deadlock. Neither Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party nor Rabuka’s group won enough seats to form a majority.

Rabuka’s supporters welcomed the deal’s announcement, with many cheering the end of Bainimarama’s rule.

Bainimarama came to power in a 2006 coup, but later won two elections to legitimize his rule. Still, his government has been accused of using the legal system to silence critics and the media.

Fiji has had four coups in the last 35 years, and the threat of military intervention hovered over this year’s election.

Rabuka requested intervention from the country’s military commander after disputing early voting results that were delayed due to technical “anomalies” and an app glitch.

Meanwhile, Fiji remains a geopolitically important country in the Pacific where the US and China are clashing for influence, the New York Times noted.

The outcome has broader regional implications, as both Rabuka and his new coalition partners have indicated a willingness to cool relations with China.

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