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French Economy Minister’s departure raises questions ahead of 2017 presidential election

Aides close to France’s Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron have said he will soon step down from his post. The move has fueled speculation that Macron will launch a run for the presidency next year.

Sources close to 38-year-old Emmanuel Macron said the Economy Minister will resign on Tuesday, confirming local media reports.

“He told his cabinet… that he would leave the government after he tenders his resignation to the president this afternoon,” one of his aides said.

Macron is expected to meet with French President Francois Hollande at 3:00 p.m. local time (1300 UTC) to hand in his resignation, according to the French news magazine “Marianne.”

Possible presidential run

The news is seen as one big step closer to launching Macron’s own presidential bid for the 2017 elections.

In May, the former investment banker launched a political movement called “En Marche” (On the Move). He describes the door-to-door grievance-gathering campaign as neither left nor right.

Last month, he strongly hinted at his presidential aspirations, saying he would lead the movement “to 2017 and to victory.”

Hollande reprimanded Macron for the comments, threatening to fire him unless he showed “solidarity” with the Socialist government he joined in 2014.

Macron has been praised by liberals for attacking key pillars of French Socialism such as the 35-hour work week.

Should Macron run for president, it could shake up next year’s French presidential where the nation’s traditional parties – the Socialists and the conservative Les Republicans – are competing against the far-right National Front leader, Marine Le Pen.

Hollande’s approval ratings are the lowest of any post-war French president, falling to 14 percent in June. He has vowed not to seek re-election should he fail to rein-in the high unemployment rate, which is around 10 percent.

The first round of voting in France’s presidential poll is set to take place on April 23, 2017.

rs/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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