France’ s economy minister launches new political movement

PARIS (AP) — France’s popular economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, has launched his own political movement to promote “fresh ideas” ahead of next year’s presidential election.

Macron, a member of Socialist President Francois Hollande’s government but not of the French leader’s party, formally launched his movement En Marche! (In Motion) Wednesday night in the northern city of Amiens.

The outspoken, pro-business minister said it is not his priority to be a candidate to the 2017 presidential election. He said the movement is “neither right- nor left-wing,” and aims at promoting “economic, social and political freedom.”

Macron stopped short of creating an actual party — the movement will attempt to gain influence in the political debate rather than running in elections.

Pierre Gattaz, the president of the main employers’ lobby, on Thursday told France Inter radio that the movement is “refreshing, it helps avoiding playing politics”.

Macron last year championed an economic reform bill that has been criticized by many on the left, including some Socialists. Traditionally pro-Socialist labor groups opposed the plan to dilute France’s famously stringent workplace protections.

Among other things, the law allows stores to open 12 times a year on Sunday instead of five and lets stores expand evening hours.

Opinion polls regularly show Macron to be one of France’s most popular politicians. However, the government as a whole is unpopular, with France’s unemployment rate hovering at 10 percent.

One critic, far-left European lawmaker Jean-Luc Melenchon, told France Info radio that the launch of Melenchon’s new movement made him “laugh a little bit.”

“People who have led the country’s economy to failure are doing something called ‘In Motion,'” he said.

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