The catalysts for the unrest were three bills under consideration by the Fijian parliament, one of which would question the illegality of the Fiji coup of 2000 and offer pardons to some of the rebels who participated in it.Nine demands were handed down from Commodore Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama to Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase largely pertaining to issues concerning these bills.

Nonetheless, relations between the government and the military remained strained.

On 22 September 2006, Commodore Bainimarama attacked government policies in a speech at Ratu Latianara Secondary School.

News service Fiji Village reported that he claimed that government leniency towards perpetrators of the 2000 coup had created a culture of disrespect for the law, to which he attributed the increasing incidents of rape, homicide, and desecration of Hindu temples.

He also criticized the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma, for supporting the government.

He also reiterated the opposition of the military to the "Qoliqoli Bill", which proposed to hand control of seabed resources to ethnic Fijians.

The Fiji Sun quoted Bainimarama on 25 September as saying that his speech at Ratu Latianara Secondary School had been based on the advice of United States General John Brown.

Bainimarama gave an ultimatum to Qarase to concede to these demands or to resign from his post by Friday 1 December. After weeks of preparations by the military, on 4 December, a well orchestrated military presence made itself known in Suva by setting up strategic road blocks, making public demonstrations of their presence and seizing weapons from opposing factions, including the police.

On 5 December, many key government ministers and chief executives were placed under house arrest and President Ratu Josefa Iloilo allegedly signed an order dissolving Parliament, though he later made a press statement denying having done so.

The proponents of the coup were an armed faction not closely associated with the military, who opposed their actions.