Fiji’s opposition on Friday accused the government of sowing “fear and chaos” to stay in power as the military was stationed on the streets of the capital Suva.
AFP reporters spotted a small number of military vehicles on patrol a day after Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama announced their mobilization to maintain “law and order”.
The scene was otherwise quiet with people doing last-minute Christmas shopping.
Opposition coalition wins election
Former naval commander Bainimarama has led Fiji since a military coup in 2006 and has refused to concede defeat after December 14 elections.
The vote saw the opposition – led by rival ex-coup leader and former prime minister Sitiveni “Rambo” Rabuka – cobble together enough seats to form a coalition government.
Bainimarama’s allies have postponed a parliamentary session to nominate Rabuka as the next prime minister.
Meanwhile, Bainimarama has cited unfounded reports of post-vote ethnic violence as a reason to deploy the military and “do our duty” to protect Fiji.
Under Fiji’s constitution, the military has wide powers to intervene in politics and has been involved in four coups in the last 35 years.
Watch: Fiji’s Bainimarama vows to respect election result if polls close
Many Fijians fear the government’s allegations of ethnic violence and military action are a pretext for a “creeping coup”.
Australia has warned tens of thousands of its citizens visiting Fiji over the summer holidays “to avoid post-election demonstrations, rallies and public gatherings that could go ahead without warning”.
On Friday, Rabuka criticized the government for claiming that racism had increased after the election.
He said senior government officials were “sowing fear and chaos” and “trying to set fire to the nation along racial lines”.
Fiji, a nation of more than 300 South Pacific islands, has a large Indo-Fijian minority and intercommunal violence has been a problem in the past.
But Rabuka claimed: “Senior police officials have confirmed to us that these stony claims targeting Indo-Fijians are fabrications.”
Some Fijians have taken to social media to dismiss claims of divisions and unrest.
Under the hashtag #FijiIsUnited, they posted pictures of themselves with friends from other ethnic groups, statements of solidarity and banal photos as proof that life goes on as normal.
Fijian police number two, Deputy Commissioner Abdul Khan – an Indo-Fijian – abruptly resigned from the force, reportedly in protest at the government’s actions.
As parliament is delayed, Bainimarama’s allies have been working to overturn the opposition’s coalition deal.
But members of the small Social Democratic Liberal Party resisted intense pressure on Friday to reverse their support for Rabuka and join a Bainimarama government.
Party leader Viliame Gavoka said a second party vote on the coalition on Friday was “very close” but once again sided with Rabuka.
“Democracy won, we watched the process to the fullest, we gave our all to make sure we have what’s best for this country,” he said.
He added that Parliament would be convened “soon” to vote on the new government.
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