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A fourth coup in Fiji is unlikely despite recent tensions there, says New Zealand's High Commissioner to the nation, Michael Green.

He told the Weekend Herald that he did not believe there would necessarily be another coup in Fiji despite its troubled history since the first coup in 1987.

That was a classic military coup, and quite different from the 2000 insurrection. That was a civilian conspiracy with some military back-up, but did not have the support of the armed forces as an institution.

"No one wants to see something like the 2000 coup again. It was anarchical - law and order completely broke down ... so the idea another coup is on the way is something nobody much wants."

Mr Green said the 1987 coup was perceived by the Army as needed to safeguard the interests of the indigenous Fijian people.

Now the Army, as headed by Commodore Frank Bainimarama, wanted to safeguard a multi-racial Fiji.

The commander, who recently threatened to overturn the Government, backed off after meeting Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase on Monday.

Commodore Bainimarama had earlier been confronted by some of his senior officers, led by Lieutenant Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka, who objected to his comments.

The commodore had been critical of the Government, which he saw as too soft on the 2000 coup perpetrators.

There has been speculation that if Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudry, the country's first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister, who was ousted in the 2000 coup, got back into power in this year's election his style of leadership could trigger another coup.

But Mr Green said Fiji society was changing as the ethnic Fijian population overtook Indo-Fijians.

As the Indo-Fijian 'threat' lessened, core problems within the Fijian ethnic community became more obvious.

Previously, Fijians had tended to suppress their rivalries but now frictions with historical roots were playing out.

For instance, Fijians in the west resented the domination in national leadership of eastern Fijians, particularly from the Lau group of islands.

Mr Green said the key votes this year would be in the urban areas.

Urbanisation was having an impact with the freedom from the constrictions of communal life.

"So we are getting ethnic Fijians who don't necessarily follow the leadership of the elders or chiefs and have views of their own."

Mr Green acknowledged there was dissatisfaction with the Government from some quarters. Tension between the Government and the armed forces involved personalities, perceptions of who was responsible for the 2000 coup, and who safeguarded the security of the country, he said.

"There is a perception that the Government is sympathetic to the objectives of the coup and is actively seeking to release people convicted of coup-related offences."

He said Bainimarama had believed there was a deliberate move by people in the Government to get him out of his job, and that would be investigated.

Dr Steven Ratuva, senior fellow in governance at the University of the South Pacific, doubted there would be another coup even if Chaudhry got back into power, which he put at a slightly less than 50 per cent chance.

Dr Ratuva said a coup would be much more difficult than in the past, with improved and more comprehensive internal security.

The recent stand-off was more to do with personalities and poor channels of communication.

Commodore Bainimarama had used psychological coercion to put pressure on the Government, he said.

"The commodore was not going to do it. He knows it would have destroyed him if he did."

Constitutional law expert Bill Hodge, of Auckland University, said Bainimarama "overstepped his mark". The whole point of national security was that elected people ran the Government, he said.

The head of the military was expected to act on the instructions of the minister, who was in turn instructed by the Cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister.

"The military is civilian-funded ... the military does what it is told."

Dr Hodge believed Bainimarama had been grandstanding and posturing. He had taken the Army mutiny during the 2000 coup very personally.

"They killed some of his men and that's what is prompting him."

Dr Hodge did not believe Bainimarama was so much driven by a need to uphold the law, but was irritated by the early releases and pardons for the coup perpetrators.

"He has a stake in seeing the mutineers stay inside."

* Population nearly 900,000.
* Ethnic Fijians make up about 58 per cent of the population.
* Indo-Fijians once outnumbered them but the balance has been shifting.
* Ethnic Fijians have higher fertility rates, and more Indo-Fijians have emigrated.