ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Madagascar’s president, Andry Rajoelina, named an army officer as his new prime minister on Sunday after the collapse of power-sharing negotiations to end months of political turmoil on the Indian Ocean island.
“The president of the transition enforces the nomination of Colonel Vital Albert Camille,” Presidency Secretary General Haja Resampa told reporters.”
Colonel Vital immediately urged opposition leaders to work with his government, but one senior opposition figure said the appointment was illegal.
Vital’s appointment will seriously dent hopes of persuading Rajoelina to return to the negotiating table and rattle foreign investors eyeing Madagascar’s oil and mineral resources.
On Friday evening, Rajoelina sacked Prime Minister Eugene Mangalaza after the opposition said it would form a consensus government with or without him.
“I appeal to the Malagasy people and to the older political leaders to help the government that I lead,” Vital told journalists.
It was not immediately clear whether this signaled an offer to include the opposition in his cabinet.
Born in 1952, Vital trained at military college in Madagascar before attending France’s Ecole Superieure Militaire in Paris.
Military analysts said he was not previously considered close to Rajoelina and played no role in the overthrow of former President Marc Ravalomanana that was supported by dissident troops in March.
One personal friend, military lawyer Youssouf Somano, said Vital remained close to another former president, Didier Ratsiraka, under whose leadership he rose through the ranks.
Somano said the appointment raised serious questions about the neutrality of the military as a whole. “I have no idea any longer what game the military is playing,” he told Reuters.
Emmanuel Rakotovahiny, a senior opposition figure named as one of two co-presidents under an earlier deal, described the appointment as illegal and against the spirit of earlier peace accords.
“This nomination is simply to attract the voters of Toliara,” Rakotovahiny told Reuters, referring to Vital’s home town on the southwestern coast.
Rajoelina, 35, has said parliamentary elections will be held on March 20.
Opposition leaders say they will set up a parallel administration before the Christmas period. They have urged the armed forces to remain neutral and stay in their barracks.
Donors say the release of hundreds of millions of dollars in frozen aid is conditional on the establishment of a power-sharing government and a plan leading to free and fair elections.
Power-sharing talks collapsed after Rajoelina, Ravalomanana, Ratsiraka and former President Albert Zafy failed to overcome differences over top cabinet posts.
Additional reporting by Alain Iloniaina; editing by Tim Pearce