Whatever specific pattern of civil-military relations emerges in Fiji, it can be said with some certainty that democratic constitutionalist principles are unlikely to prevail in the shorter term. Despite the high-sounding title assigned to the new republic, there is no commitment on the part of either chiefly or military leaders in support of these principles. Indeed, much of their traditionalist rhetoric since the coup has been directed explicitly against the ‘alien’ concepts associated with democratic politics (see especially Dean and Ritova 1988). The logical foundations of the traditionalist view, and the ideology supporting it, have been dealt with critically elsewhere (see Lawson l990a and l990b). But whatever claims can be mounted against the logical and ethical bases of political legitimacy in contemporary Fiji, the strength of the prevailing orthodoxies lends sufficient rhetorical force to arguments countering both domestic and external pressures for ‘democratisation’. The efficacy of this rhetoric is further strengthened by appeals to the slogan, increasingly popular in international discourse, of ‘indigenous rights’. In addition, there is a pervasive belief that ‘plural societies’ are incapable of sustaining peaceful democratic politics, and can only be managed effectively through relatively authoritarian institutions (see Lawson l990a). This means that both the military and the current civilian regime have escaped much of the international invective that might otherwise have been directed against the constitutional entrenchment of a system of political apartheid.

Most importantly, it needs to be emphasised that the homus politicus role of the military in Fiji is incompatible with any notion of civilian supremacy. It is especially contrary to the democratic principles embodied in the doctrine of constitutionalism. In other words, if the military becomes a de facto part of the political system insofar as it plays a covert role in determining political leadership, it can no longer be considered the apolitical institution that democratic theory demands. Finally, the effective guardianship of Fiji’s ‘national interest’ by the military betrays an essential weakness in the political culture that has sustained the chauvinistic assertion of ‘indigenous rights’. For wherever the threat of force is a necessary condition for maintaining a particular political order, it follows that the order itself lacks the degree of legitimacy required for long-term stability.