France’s former leader Nicolas Sarkozy announced his presidential comeback bid on Monday, declaring he would run for the 2017 election.
Sarkozy, 61, was unseated from the Elysee Palace at the last election in 2012 by the now deeply unpopular President Francois Hollande, but had been widely expected to try to win back the office.
“I have decided to be a candidate for the 2017 presidential election. I felt I had the strength to lead this battle at a troubled time in our history,” Sarkozy wrote on his social media pages ahead of the publication of a book called “Everything for France” on Wednesday.
The long-expected announcement gives the 61 year-old former president three months to win over opponents in his own camp, including supporters of former prime ministers Alain Juppe and Francois Fillon. With more than a dozen candidates seeking the nomination, The Republicans hold their primaries in two rounds on Nov. 20 and 27.
More than a dozen contenders are vying for the party ticket as candidate, including main rival, Alain Juppe.
Sarkozy had done little to conceal his desire to return to power since taking the helm of France’s main right-wing party in late 2014, but two months ago trailed Juppe in opinion polls.
The two-time former interior minister has been scathing of Hollande’s security record, urging France to get tough on immigration, crack down on suspected extremists and halt the erosion of France’s secular identity.
Courting voters tempted towards France’s strengthening far- right National Front party, Sarkozy has laced recent speeches with references to national identity and blames “cowardly leaders” for a loss of French culture.
His emphasis on hot-button topics of French identity and his ability to present himself as an experienced Commander-in-Chief at a time France is under emergency rule may boost his chances, foreign diplomats and political analysts say.
Even so, legal troubles surrounding party financing and overspending by his 2012 presidential campaign, as well as his outsized personality could yet trip him up.
Sarkozy credits himself with steering Europe through its worst economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression during his 2007-2012 term.
But his abrasive manner repelled many voters and his weak performance on free-market reforms to revive the economy disappointed French business leaders.
The November 20 primary is the first ever to be held by France’s main right-wing party.