PARIS French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday he was launching a new political movement which he wants to be neither of the left or the right, just a year before France's presidential elections.
The initiative by one of the Socialist government's most popular minister is likely to fuel speculation that the former investment banker is laying the groundwork for grander political ambitions.
"I have decided to create a new political movement," the 38-year old minister told a gathering in his hometown of Amiens, northern France, unveiling the name of a group called "En Marche!", or "Forward!".
"I'm in a left-wing government, unashamedly, ... but I also want to work with people from the right, who commit to the same values," he said at the event, which was closed to the press but broadcast on Dailymotion, a French internet video service along the lines of YouTube.
The Paris media world has been abuzz with talk that the minister may have higher political ambitions after young supporters of the former investment banker launched a think-tank last month.
Macron said the 2017 presidential elections, at which President Francois Hollande has said he will not stand if he fails to curb unemployment, were not his priority, but he did not rule out being a candidate.
"It's not a movement for yet another candidate for the presidential election, that's not my priority today," Macron said in a speech.
"But I also see all the things I don't manage to get done, all the things that are blocked, and this movement is to get beyond these," he added at a gathering he called a 'citizens meeting' and at which no journalists were allowed.
The popularity of Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls has sunk to new lows in opinion polls in recent weeks, prompting some lawmakers in the Socialist party to call for an open primary to choose next year's Socialist nominee for the elections.
Macron, who is not an elected politician and became a minister less than two years ago, remains relatively popular, even though the pro-business labour reforms he has championed have been vilified by some of the traditional left-wing voters who helped put Hollande in power in 2012.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Catherine Evans and Andrew Callus)
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