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France’s maverick Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron resigns

Eric Piermont, AFP | Emmanuel Macron arrives at the Economy Ministry in Pars for a meeting on economic continuity on July 20, 2016.

France’s maverick politician Emmanuel Macron announced his resignation Tuesday as economy minister but stopped short of declaring an official bid for the presidency in the 2017 election.


In a much-awaited announcement, Macron said he was quitting government to “open a new chapter” in his “fight to bring together” the French people to “start a new project”.

The 38-year-old former investment banker is the head of the “En Marche” (On the Move) movement, which he founded earlier this year to the chagrin of fellow ministers in President François Hollande’s government.

Despite widespread speculation that the French politician would announce his intention to run for the 2017 presidential race, Macron stopped short of declaring his candidacy Tuesday, choosing instead to leave the door open for a formal declaration at a future date.

"I am determined to do everything so our values, ideas and actions can transform France starting next year," Macron told journalists and staff at the ministry headquarters in Paris’s Bercy district.

Macron said that he would present proposals to change the country at the end of the month as part of his “En Marche” movement.

His resignation announcement came shortly after the French presidential office issued a statement that Macron had quit his position “to dedicate himself entirely to his political movement", referring to the “En Marche” movement.

The statement also said French Finance Minister Michel Sapin would take over the Economy Ministry portfolio in addition to his current finance role.

Bane of the left

Macron rose to political prominence over the past two years largely by challenging some of the pillars of France’s social model and championing Hollande’s liberalising economic policies.

One of Hollande’s top economic advisers during his successful 2012 presidential campaign, Macron is credited with helping the French president craft a pro-business agenda. He stepped down as an adviser shortly after the election, but in a surprise move was appointed the country’s economy minister in a government reshuffle in August 2014.

He quickly won a reputation as a nonconformist,unafraid of pointing out France’s economic woes and questioning long-standing social safeguards.

Profile: Emmanuel Macron
Profile: Emmanuel Macron

He expressed doubts about the country’s cherished 35-hour workweek and other benefits, infuriating hard-left political leaders and even some members of the Socialist government.

The government passed one minor law meant to spur economic growth and activity during his time as France’s economy minister, but his tenure was more marked by growing antagonism with the country’s powerful unions and Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

A ‘natural’ candidate

The abrupt resignation of the ambitious young politician – who is not a member of the ruling Socialist Party – just eight months before the presidential election has been widely viewed as a carefully orchestrated bid for the country’s top job.

Macron has repeatedly refused to confirm or deny whether he would be a contender, all while Hollande has seen his job approval ratings sink to new lows.

Speculation over Macron’s political ambitions have gripped French political circles since the July 12 launch of his "En marche" movement at a rally which brought together hundreds of supporters in Paris.

The event, during which he promised “victory” in 2017, was widely considered a prelude to a run for the presidency.

On May 18, Gérard Collomb, a French senator and mayor of the city of Lyon, said Macron would be a “natural” presidential candidate on the 2017 ballot if Hollande failed to bounce back in opinion polls.

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