President Hollande, left, and Emmanuel Macron. Photo: AFP
France's rebel Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, considered one the rising stars of French politics resigned from the government on Tuesday, in what is expected to be the next big step towards his running for president in next year's elections.
The 38-year-old minister had an unscheduled meeting with France's President Francois Hollande on Tuesday at 3pm to tender his resignation.
The president accepted the resignation after a 40 minute meeting with the minister, according to reports in Le Figaro. Shortly after the Elysée Palace officially announced the departure of the minister.
"The Minister of the Economy presented his resignation to the president today in order to concentrate on his owne political movement," a statement from the Elysée said, referring to "En Marche" (On the Move) which he founded in April.
And to twist the knife even further the former Rothschild banker is widely expected to announce his candidacy for the French presidency as he aims to replace his boss at the Elysée palace in next spring's presidential election.
The minister was due to make a public statement later on Tuesday. He will be succeeded by current French finance minister Michel Sapin.
While French business leaders lamented the loss of a minister "who understood them" members of the ruling Socialist party were left furious by Macron's move.
He was labelled a "traitor" and a "deserter" by some unnamed members of the socialist party quoted in the French press.
The resignation may not come as a surprise to many in French politics with the minister having raised suspicions in recent weeks that he would rather take a gamble on becoming head of state himself than help Hollande regain his job.
Up until now Macron has repeatedly denied that he has been making moves on the presidency, most recently after reports in the French press said he was raising funds for a presidential election war chest.
"These two assertions are totally false," the 38-year-old rising star told reporters in May.
Paris Match reported at the time that Macron raised nearly €12.75 million ($14.5 million) during a trip to London to "fund a campaign if he decides to run".
The biggest clue that Macron had designs on France's top job came in April when he set up his own political movement, "En Marche" (On the Move).
Then earlier this summer the minister held a rally in which he pledged to supporters to lead his En marche! political movement "to 2017 and to victory".
That left little doubt to most about his intentions and prompted Hollande to warn him that he should follow the rules of being in government or get out.
"In a government, there cannot be any personal initiatives and even less presidential ones," Hollande said in a TV interview to mark the Bastille Day national holiday.
"Respecting these rules means staying in the government. Not respecting them means leaving."
Macron it seems decided to take his president's advice and jump from a ship that, given Hollande's dismal popularity ratings, seems to have long since sunk.
As economy minister Macron he will be remembered for his controversial reforms, known as the Loi Macron, which led to more Sunday and late night shop openings and the liberalization of certain sectors of the economy.
Macron's time as minister was marked by his frequent straying from the traditional party line on sacrosanct socialist principles, which infuriated his colleagues.
But Macron, who has never claimed to be a socialist, was no stranger to rubbing up party big wigs the wrong way - none more so than his Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
He sent pulses racing not too long after being nominated as a minister by suggesting the sacred 35-hour week was not sacred and could be reformed.
He then prompted many of them to start sweating profusely by suggesting France's sacred civil servants or fonctionnaires should be given performance-related pay. He also suggested France should scrap its wealth tax.
The elephants of the party lined up to lambast him. “He's not a team player,” they said.
But Macron did not seem to care as distancing himself from unpopular government seemed part of his plan.
“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.”
If as expected Macron announces a bid to become president, many believe it will scupper any chance of Hollande being reelected and simply result in a right wing candidate - possible Nicolas Sarkozy taking power at the Elysée.