Maverick economy minister Macron resigns
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France's Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday he had quit as economy minister to focus on drawing up a "diagnosis" of the country's woes, but stopped short of declaring a bid for the presidency in 2017.
However, the 38-year-old former investment banker, one of France's most popular politicians, is widely expected to do so, having quit the government and created his own political party.
"Emmanuel Macron ... today handed in to the president of the Republic his resignation from the government to fully devote himself to his political party," Socialist President Francois Hollande's office said in a statement.
Finance Minister Michel Sapin, a close ally of Hollande, will add the economy ministry to his portfolio.
The government's pro-reform line is not expected to change.
A spokeswoman said Macron would not announce a presidential bid on Tuesday. His new party will first conduct a door-to-door campaign to gauge opinion and collect voters' grievances on French politics by the end of September.
"After that we will make proposals, and after that candidacy questions will be dealt with," the spokeswoman told Reuters news agency.
Macron's place in the government had become increasingly awkward after he repeatedly criticized left-wing totems like France's 35-hour work week and created his own party in April, casting it as leaning neither left nor right.
Someone in Macron's inner circle also told Reuters that the rapidly evolving political situation, in which former president Nicolas Sarkozy and two former Socialist ministers had declared their intention to run for president, had forced the hand of the minister,
who the source said had initially planned to resign mid-September.
Hollande, whose approval ratings are the lowest of any post-war French president, has pledged not to seek re-election if he fails to rein in stubbornly high unemployment, which is hovering at around 10 percent.
The first round of the presidential vote is set for April 23, 2017.
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