France’s Emmanuel Macron quits, paving way for presidential bid

Outgoing minister delivers resignation speech laced with criticism of Francois Hollande

Outgoing French economy minister Emmanuel Macron after his resignation. He said he regretted having failed to convince colleagues that a profound transformation of the French economy was needed. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Outgoing French economy minister Emmanuel Macron after his resignation. He said he regretted having failed to convince colleagues that a profound transformation of the French economy was needed. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

 

The most popular member of the French government, 38-year-old Emmanuel Macron, on Tuesday resigned as minister for the economy with the unstated but obvious goal of succeeding president Francois Hollande as head of state.

A former banker who has never been elected to office, Mr Macron – sometimes called the “French JFK” – launched a political movement bearing his own initials, “En Marche!” (“Forward!”) last April.

At his first rally, held provocatively two days before the president’s televised Bastille Day interview, he promised to lead the movement “all the way to victory”.

The finance minister Michel Sapin will take over his economy, industry and digital technology portfolio.

An indictment of the failings of Mr Hollande and prime minister Manuel Valls ran like a subtext through Mr Macron’s departure speech. He regretted having failed to convince colleagues that a profound transformation of the French economy was needed.

“I touched the limits of our political system, which pushes one to last-minute compromises,” he said. “Explanations are rarely given. It plays to people’s fears because it hasn’t built an ideological consensus. It produces flawed solutions and too often ignores reality.”

These factors created “collective impotence”, Mr Macron continued. The physical danger of terrorist attacks has been added to falling living standards and general decline.

‘Immutable’

Mr Macron promised to present his “diagnosis” of what ails France by the end of September, followed by proposals for setting it right.  

Mr Macron owes his short but promising political career to Mr Hollande, whose foreign policy address was upstaged by the resignation. 

A graduate of the prestigious École Nationale d’Administration, Mr Macron worked for Banque Rothschild, where he earned a €2 million commission on a €9 billion deal between Nestlé and Pfizer.

Mr Hollande appointed Mr Macron as his economic adviser and deputy secretary general of the Elysée, then promoted him to economy minister.

He was credited with the “pact of responsibility” which refunded €40 billion in social charges to businesses. His “Loi Macron” slightly deregulated Sunday trading and coach transport. It sparked so much controversy that it had to be passed by decree.

Mr Macron has captured the imagination of much of the French electorate with his boyish good looks and unusual romance. At age 16, he fell in love with his lycée French teacher, Brigitte Trogneux, a married woman and mother of three who is 20 years his senior and whom he later married.