Leader of conservative Les Republicains party announces he will step down as its head, paving the way to enter primaries ahead of 2017 contest
The former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has confirmed he will run again for the countrys highest office, announcing he is stepping down as head of his conservative party to pave the way for the return bid.
Sarkozy told members on Saturday that it was his last meeting as head of Frances Les Republicains party. Sarkozy lost the presidency in 2012 to the Socialist partys Franois Hollande and has not hidden his ambition to run in Frances 2017 election.
The partys primaries are in November. Sarkozy is expected to face tough competition against 13 others in his party who have already declared their candidacies.
Sarkozys main competitor, the former prime minister Alain Juppe, on Saturday criticised the confusion between Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the party, and Nicolas Sarkozy, candidate campaigning for the primaries.
Supporters of Les Republicains and other right and centre-right parties will vote in November to decide who will be their candidate in the 2017 presidential election.
The winner will face the far-right National Fronts Marine Le Pen and a Socialist candidate, likely to be Hollande.
Sarkozy would not be able to run in those presidential primaries if he remained head of the party. He would need to resign two weeks before the application deadline on 9 September.
This national council will be my last one as president of Les Republicains, he told the party meeting, calling for a fair contest and no acrimony between the potential nominees.
This primary will be a time of competition between some strong personalities, between people of significant talent.
When the right goes into battle it has a front on the left and a front on the extreme right. That is why it is unacceptable that we should attack each other.
For much of this year centre-right rival Juppe has outpaced Sarkozy in opinion polls, but the man who was president between 2007 and 2012 is making a comeback among party supporters, a recent survey showed, in a sign the battle could be more open than many thought.
With Reuters and Associated Press