Laisenia Qarase's rise to power was unusual, to say the least. An economist and banker by education and training, his only significant role in public service was as managing director of the Fiji Development Bank, which he left in 1998. A year later Fiji's military and powerful Great Council of Chiefs nominated him senator. In an even more startling move, he was appointed interim prime minister in July 2000 following the Speight coup attempt that toppled the elected government of Indo-Fijian Mahendra Chaudhry. Suddenly Qarase was responsible for organizing a general election, rescuing the ailing economy, and drawing up a new Constitution.
The international community, as well as many Fijians, questioned the legitimacy of this first Qarase government, born as it was from desperate political insurrection and military intervention. However, when his government was dissolved under pressure in September 2001, Qarase, an ethnic Fijian and head of his own newly created nationalist Soqoso Duavata ni Lewenivuana Party, immediately won back his office in legitimate public elections, taking 31 of 71 seats in Parliament. He was sworn in as prime minister once again on 10 September 2001.