Paris (AFP)

Struggling after defections from the majority group and a few hiccups, the leader of the deputies LREM Gilles Le Gendre returns his apron: he announced Thursday that he would leave his new duties at the start of the September term, which already arouses appetites.

Given the "new path" traced by Emmanuel Macron, "a handover takes place which will bring new blood to the head of our group", wrote the Paris deputy to the 280 "walkers" in a letter consulted by AFP , in which he specifies to take "freely" a decision that "no one imposes on him".

The names of ex-ministers Christophe Castaner and François de Rugy have been mentioned recently to take over the reins.

The second, who had resigned from the government a year ago after being accused of his supposedly lavish lifestyle, formalized his candidacy on Thursday evening. In a message to his colleagues, which AFP obtained, François de Rugy said he wanted to "privilege the + we + over the + I +, defend and value the work of the parliamentarians of the majority" and also "prepare the elections of 2022" .

Mr. Le Gendre, former journalist and then entrepreneur, had succeeded in September 2018 to Richard Ferrand, who had become President of the Assembly, and had been re-elected as head of the majority group in the first round in July 2019. His term will end when LREM parliamentary days of September 10 and 11.

"This is not (yet) the time to talk about the candidates", according to "walker" Olivia Grégoire, who has greeted Gilles Le Gendre as "a captain in the storm" for almost two years.

This withdrawal "is a mark of lucidity on the situation of the group," said Bruno Questel, among the most reassembled internally. LREM spokesperson, Aurore Bergé spoke of "a responsible decision in the interest of our parliamentary group".

Mr. Le Gendre, 62, had been weakened at the beginning of June after the leak in the press of a "note" to Emmanuel Macron on a cabinet reshuffle, in which he seemed to plead for a change of Prime Minister, then Edouard Philippe, and proposed - what he denies - a new government cast.

Departures of LREM group elected officials, until the formation in May of a 9th political group in the left wing and then a 10th in the right wing, losing the absolute majority in LREM, had also weakened it.

- "To reinvent oneself" -

Mr. Le Gendre announces leaving his post the day after a large vote of confidence in the new head of government Jean Castex, without LREM defection except Olivier Serva (Guadeloupe), who abstained.

"I take the Prime Minister at his word, he tells us that he wants to work intensively with his majority, I tell him very well, chiche," said Le Gendre to the press after this election. And to add: "The idea that the group must reinvent itself, I have nothing against it, I even have only pros".

While Secretaries of State have yet to be appointed, he also said he had "never been a candidate for any government office".

The episodes of the "yellow vests", the votes of the anti-breaker law or the Ceta agreement, and again the pension reform, which put the majority under severe strain, had strongly mobilized the group president to the "infernal" job , in the opinion of all its predecessors.

He had set out to implement his program: "more collegiality", "more politics". But this man of "consensus" with a temperate character, sometimes criticized for a lack of "leadership" or "political sense", had opposed in vain in the spring the emergence of currents within the majority group.

Mr. Le Gendre had been exposed to the taunts of opinion at the end of 2018, when he had clumsily estimated that the executive and the majority had "probably been too intelligent, too subtle" on the question of purchasing power. Faced with criticism, this man with tortoiseshell glasses and impeccable suits remained polite in all circumstances.

With him, the entire management team of the group, some 25 deputies he had chosen, who would have to leave. This reorganization could coincide with changes to the head of the presidential party.

© 2020 AFP