June 20, 2017 / 7:10 AM / a year ago

Macron under-fire aide quits French government for 'strategic' parliament post

PARIS (Reuters) - Richard Ferrand, a close aide of Emmanuel Macron who was named a minister weeks ago, said on Tuesday his move out of government to a job as leader of his party in parliament was “strategic”, and he dodged questions as to whether he had been sidelined by the French president.

FILE PHOTO: Richard Ferrand arrives to attend cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France. Picture taken May 18, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

Macron’s right-hand man during the presidential campaign, Ferrand became embroiled in allegations of financial impropriety within days of the centrist’s victory in May.

A preliminary investigation is under way over allegations he benefited improperly from property deals done six years ago by a health insurance fund he managed in the Brittany region.

The affair tainted the early weeks of Macron’s presidency with a whiff of bigger scandals that hit some of his opponents during a bitter presidential campaign.

Under a government reshuffle to be conducted this week after Macron’s party won a majority in parliament at the weekend, Ferrand is to step down as minister for territorial planning.

He will take up instead the leadership of the 308 lawmakers representing Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party in the National Assembly, the 577-seat lower house of parliament.

Many of them are young and new to politics, although they are allied in parliament to another long-established centrist party, MoDem, or Democratic Movement.

“It is a strategic role,” he told RTL Radio.

“Emmanuel Macron has signaled the confidence that unites us ... He judged that it was a good moment because I know the parliamentary procedure well.”

Ferrand was a Socialist member of parliament who deserted the now-devastated party to join Macron’s cause.

Other ministers in Macron’s government are from The Republicans, the mainstream conservative party that was also decimated by LREM in Sunday’s parliamentary vote.

Reporting by Andrew Callus; Editing by Brian Love

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