French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron on Thursday was forced to deny reports that he is raising funds for a presidential election war chest and would announce his bid next month.
“These two assertions are totally false,” the 38-year-old rising star told reporters. “I won't declare next month and… I have not raised any funds to this end.”
Early this month Paris Match magazine reported that Macron raised nearly 10 million pounds (€12.75 million, $14.5 million) during a trip to London to “fund a campaign if he decides to run”.
Then the Mediapart news website reported on Wednesday that Macron would announce his bid on June 10, prompting categorical denials from his aides.
The former banker said Thursday: “I will not do anything in June aside from my job as minister” while nevertheless evoking the need for an “overhaul” of the Socialist government's agenda.
Government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said earlier that he hoped the Mediapart report was a “hoax”.
Macron made waves last month by setting up his own political movement, “En Marche” (On the Move), prompting cabinet colleagues to call on him to get into line.
The Minister has repeatedly been rebuked by members of his own government after suggesting that several sacrosanct Socialist principles like the 35-hour week and the status of civil servants.
“He knows exactly what he is doing,” French political expert Bruno Cautres told The Local. “A clever guy like that doesn’t say provocative things by accident.”
The deeply unpopular President Francois Hollande has said he will not decide until the end of the year whether to seek re-election.
Opinion polls predict he would be eliminated in the first round of the two-round contest starting on April 23.
A poll last month showed that Macron would fare better if he was named the Socialist candidate, and would progress into the second round, possibly to face far-right leader Marine Le Pen.