France’s Sarkozy announces re-election bid

Nicolas Sarkozy

Nicolas Sarkozy

France’s former leader Nicolas Sarkozy announced on Monday that he is running again to become president in next year’s elections.

“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 in an excerpt of his upcoming book “Everything for France” (“Tout pour la France”) posted on his social media accounts.

“The five years that come will be full of danger, but also of hope,” he added.

Sarkozy, 61, served as president from 2007 to 2012, when he lost re-election to the now deeply unpopular President François Hollande.

A hyperactive and divisive figure both loved and loathed among right-wing voters, Sarkozy did not say whether he would join his conservative Les Républicains party (formerly the UMP) primaries scheduled for November.

His aides later told the AFP that he will be stepping down as the party’s leader on Monday.

More than a dozen contenders are vying for the Les Républicains candidacy, including main rival, Alain Juppé.

Sarkozy – who has made no secret of his desire to return to the presidency – has been scathing of Hollande’s security record, urging France to get tough on immigration, crack down on suspected Islamists and halt the erosion of France’s secular identity.

Courting voters tempted towards France’s growing 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 when 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.

“Everything for France” is set to be released on Wednesday.