French economy chief Emmanuel Macron quits 'ahead of presidential bid'
French economy minister Emmanuel Macron, an outspoken former investment banker who has encouraged start-ups and more labour flexibility, has quit the Socialist government amid speculation that he is considering a presidential bid.
An official in President Francois Hollande's office announced that finance minister Michel Sapin will take over Mr Macron's responsibilities.
Mr Macron started a political movement this year but has not said whether he will run for president. While polls show he enjoys wide popularity, it is unclear whether he could translate that into votes.
Critics in Mr Hollande's Socialist Party say Mr Macron has betrayed leftist ideals by pushing France toward an American-style business model with laws loosening labour rules.
Mr Macron, 38, argues that France needs change to stay competitive internationally. He has never held elected office.
Mr Macron has repeatedly stressed he is not a member of the Socialist party even if he was part of a Socialist government.
Political analyst Frederic Dabi of the survey institute Ifop said Mr Macron's challenge is "to turn high popularity into voting intentions, but it's a hard task, because he's not very popular in the left wing and because his popularity in the right wing does not necessarily mean votes".
"In any case, a key minister of Hollande's government leaving in the last moments of the five-year term can be seen as a sign of disorder," Mr Dabi said.
Mr Hollande, the most unpopular president in modern French history, has not announced whether he will run for re-election next year.