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France's Macron seeks new horizon, hints at presidential bid

Associated Press Associated Press 31/08/2016
FILE - In this March 14, 2016 file photo, Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron gives a press conference, in Paris. Macron, an outspoken former investment banker who has encouraged start-ups and more labor flexibility, has quit the socialist government Tuesday Aug. 30, 2016 amid speculation that he is considering a presidential bid. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this March 14, 2016 file photo, Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron gives a press conference, in Paris. Macron, an outspoken former investment banker who has encouraged start-ups and more labor flexibility, has quit the socialist government Tuesday Aug. 30, 2016 amid speculation that he is considering a presidential bid. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

PARIS — Potential French presidential contender Emmanuel Macron says he's leaving his job as economy minister because he wants to take new risks, after a tenure marked by controversial labor reforms.

The media-savvy former investment banker hasn't formally announced a bid for next year's presidential elections, but is strongly hinting at one.

In handing over powers Wednesday to Finance Minister Michel Sapin, Macron said, "today's circumstances require taking risks." He said he's "taking to the sea ... with a clear course and the determination to take this risk."

Macron has previously said he will use the political movement he created this year to build a program aimed at "changing the country." If he does run, it is likely it would be under his own banner rather than as a Socialist.

Sapin, a longtime ally of Socialist President Francois Hollande, is taking over both the economy and finance ministries. He said he'd continue to pursue reforms, but also insisted on the importance of leftist ideals.

Critics say Macron betrayed those ideals by rolling back some labor protections.

"I don't understand how one can quit at such a difficult time for the French," Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said on RTL radio on Wednesday.

Junior minister Jean-Marie Le Guen, in charge of the relations with the parliament, said on LCI television said he has "some doubts" about whether Macron will be able to achieve his goal.

Two other former members of Hollande's Socialist government have declared their intention to run in the presidential elections next year: former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg and former education minister Benoit Hamon, both advocating a more leftist approach.

The Socialist party will organize primaries in January to choose its candidate. Hollande has not said if he will run for re-election.

Government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said Hollande called on his government to continue to work in a "collective" way at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. "Much remains to be done," Hollande added.

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