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Fiji coup leader back as prime minister

FIJI'S president yesterday reappointed former coup leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama to head the South Pacific nation's government, less than two days after a court ruled his 2006 coup illegal.

Bainimarama was sworn in as caretaker prime minister in the morning by President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, who on Friday annulled the 1997 constitution and sacked the entire judiciary.

In the afternoon Bainimarama, who is also military chief, reappointed nine ministers in his former government to the same posts. They were sworn in by the 88-year-old Iloilo, an ethnic Fijian like Bainimarama.

Bainimarama came to power in a bloodless coup in 2006. On Thursday, in a case brought by former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, the Court of Appeal overturned an earlier judgement that the military chief's government was legal, and called for a new government led by neither man pending fresh elections. Bainimarama initially said he would step down. But after annulling the constitution on Friday, the president enacted emergency powers for the country's military and police, initially for 30 days but with the possibility of extension.

Iloilo also issued a decree giving himself the power to appoint a prime minister by decree and other ministers on the advice of the prime minister. The powers will remain in force until a parliament is elected under a new constitution yet to be adopted.


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