Fiji PM undergoes cardiac surgery, to be out of office for weeks

·1-min read
Fiji's Frank Bainimarama, a one-time coup leader and military commander, has been an influential figure in Fijian politics for more than two decades (AFP/PHIL NOBLE)

Fiji's veteran prime minister has undergone urgent cardiovascular surgery in Australia and is not expected to return to office until late February, the government announced in a late-night press conference Saturday.

Sixty-seven-year-old Frank Bainimarama was told by doctors in Melbourne that he needed the unspecified surgery and was operated on Friday morning.

"We are very happy to report that it was a great success," Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum -- attorney-general and acting prime minister in Bainimarama's absence -- said, describing the leader as "well on his way to recovery."

"Per the doctors' orders this type of surgery takes weeks at a minimum to recover from, so we expect to have our prime minister back at the helm of the nation, fitter than ever, by the end of February," he said.

Bainimarama, a one-time coup leader and military commander, has been an influential figure in Fijian politics for more than two decades.

He led a military government in 2000 and was installed as prime minister in 2007.

He eventually won democratic elections in 2014 and 2018 and is expected to face reelection this year.

In recent years the former military strongman has reinvented his image on the world stage, becoming a vocal climate warrior.

His island nation is among the countries worst affected by sea level rises.

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