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Bainimarama heads to Auckland ahead of Fijian elections

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 09:13 05/08/2014
Frank Bainimarama
DAVID WHITE/Fairfax NZ
FRANK BAINIMARAMA: The island nation's leader has set an election date.

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Fiji's military leader Frank Bainimarama arrives in Auckland on Friday for his first visit since his coup d'etat that overthrew a democratic government in 2006.

Details of events over the weekend are being kept under wraps as security officials check out possible venues in South Auckland.

Fiji is heading to democracy-restoring elections on September 17 in which Bainimarama is contesting as leader of the "Fiji First" party.

The prime minister he overthrew, Laisenia Qarase, has already been in Auckland campaigning among the around 2000 registered Fiji national voters.

Also due in Auckland this week is the paramount chief and leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party, Teimumu Kepa.

With Indians making up the majority of registered Fijian voters in New Zealand, they are likely to support Bainimarama.

Votes will, however, be less important than the campaign funds they traditionally send back to Fiji.

Bainimarama last came to New Zealand in November 2006 to stay with family members member at the Trentham Military Base outside Wellington.

He had spent much of the year warning he would take over power and when he arrived in Auckland he explicitly told Fairfax Media that he would stage his coup two weeks on.

This provoked New Zealand into action and the then Foreign Minister Winston Peters organised crisis meetings at Government House.

Qarase was flown by the Royal New Zealand Air Force to Wellington and the then Governor-General Anand Satyanand, who has Indo-Fijian parents, was used in a bid to fend off a coup.

It was to no avail and Bainimarama seized power.

Fiji's first coup plotter, Sitiveni Rabuka, was not allowed entry into New Zealand for nearly four years after his two coups in 1987.

Having since restored democracy and losing in elections, he has been a regular visitor here.

Fiji's second plotter in 2000, George Speight, remains locked up, convicted of treason in Fiji's maximum security jail.

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