Europe

French candidate Macron wins key backer: defense chief

  • FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2017 file photo, Emmanuel Macron, candidate for the 2017 French presidential elections and his wife Brigitte attend the annual dinner of the Representative Council of France's Jewish Associations (CRIF) in Paris. French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron forms an inseparable team with his wife Brigitte _ his former high school theater teacher, 24 years his senior, who is breaking with French tradition and fierily campaigning by his side. (Christophe Petit Tesson/ Pool via AP, File)

    FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2017 file photo, Emmanuel Macron, candidate for the 2017 French presidential elections and his wife Brigitte attend the annual dinner of the Representative Council of France's Jewish Associations (CRIF) in Paris. French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron forms an inseparable team with his wife Brigitte _ his former high school theater teacher, 24 years his senior, who is breaking with French tradition and fierily campaigning by his side. (Christophe Petit Tesson/ Pool via AP, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Aug.28, 2014 file photo, then France's Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, left, is greeted by defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the Elysee Palace, in Paris. Macron has won the backing of the defense minister, which could bolster voter confidence that the 39-year-old is presidential material despite havingI no party and minimal political experience. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, FILE)

    FILE - In this Aug.28, 2014 file photo, then France's Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, left, is greeted by defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the Elysee Palace, in Paris. Macron has won the backing of the defense minister, which could bolster voter confidence that the 39-year-old is presidential material despite havingI no party and minimal political experience. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, FILE)  (The Associated Press)

Independent French presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron has won the backing of the defense minister, which could bolster voter confidence that the 39-year-old is presidential material despite having no party and minimal political experience.

Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, leading France's military operations against Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq, announced the move in Ouest-France newspaper Friday.

Le Drian's support adds weight to Macron's centrist campaign, and comes after two other members of President Francois Hollande's Socialist government joined Macron.

However Macron is being careful not to associate himself too closely with Hollande's unpopular outgoing administration and the divided Socialists.

Macron, a former banker with pro-market views who has never held elected office, is considered the front-runner for the two-round vote April 23 and May 7.