Former Fiji prime minister Laisenia Qarase, who was installed as leader following one coup attempt and overthrown by another, died Tuesday aged 79, a family spokesman said.

The founder of the Soqosoqo Duavata Ni Lewenivanua Party, who served as Fiji's sixth prime minister from 2000 to 2006, died in hospital after a short illness.

Qarase passed away at the Oceania Hospital in Suva early Tuesday, family spokesman Mesake Koroi told AFP.

Laisenia Qarase pictured in 2006
Laisenia Qarase pictured in 2006 AFP / TORSTEN BLACKWOOD

He was a career civil servant who was appointed prime minister in 2000 after the military quashed a coup by failed businessman George Speight that had removed the government of Mahendra Chaudhry.

Qarase was a champion of indigenous Fijians and won two elections without gaining any significant support from the Indo-Fijian population.

In 2006, he was removed from power in a military coup led by Frank Bainimarama and later imprisoned on corruption charges.