The military could rule in Fiji for "up to 50 years" unless powerful tribal chiefs agree to appoint a government approved by the country's coup leader that would eventually restore democracy, the armed forces chief said on Thursday.
Commodore Frank Bainimarama escalated a standoff with the Great Council of Chiefs, which has the power to give the military takeover a veneer of legality but has so far rejected his plans, saying they must accept the reality that he is now in control.
Bainimarama wants the council, which under the constitution appoints the president and vice president on the advice of the elected government, to reappoint President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, whose powers the commander declared December 5 he had assumed to dismiss the government.
Under Bainimarama's plan, Iloilo would then swear in the military's caretaker government, which would rule until elections restored democracy.
The plan would allow Bainimarama to claim he was working within the constitution when he ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, and could prevent treason or other criminal charges being laid against him in the future.
The chief's council has condemned Bainimarama's coup as illegal and disrespectful, and the military accuses it of dragging its feet on organising a meeting currently scheduled for next Wednesday and Thursday.
"If the Great Council decides to hold off appointing a president, this transitional regime can rule for up to 50 years," Bainimarama told Radio Fiji on Thursday.