Nicolas Sarkozy announces return to French politics

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy - 10 March 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Nicolas Sarkozy has kept a low profile after his defeat by Francois Hollande in the 2012 election

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced his return to politics.

On his Facebook page, he said he would seek the leadership of the opposition UMP party, widely seen as a first step towards a presidential bid in 2017.

"I am a candidate to be president of my political family," Mr Sarkozy wrote.

The statement ends months of speculation about the intentions of the 59-year-old conservative, who vowed to give up politics after he failed to be re-elected as president in 2012.

The UMP party elections are due to be held in November.

'A new political choice'

"After a lengthy period of reflection, I have decided to offer the French people a new political choice," he wrote.

He said he could not "remain a spectator given the situation in which France finds itself, given the destruction of political debate and the persistence of the derisory splits within the opposition".

The BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris says that although Mr Sarkozy's announcement had been expected, it comes as a major event.

Mr Sarkozy has many supporters who believe his energy are essential to pull France out of its current difficulties, our correspondent adds.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Despite strong support within the UMP party, Mr Sarkozy remains a bitterly divisive figure in French politics

However, Nicolas Sarkozy remains a divisive figure. He was defeated by Francois Hollande in the 2012 election, becoming the first French president not to be re-elected for a second term since 1981.

But opinion polls suggest President Hollande has now become the most unpopular French president in modern times.

Although Mr Sarkozy has kept a low profile since leaving office, he has faced a series of legal investigations that involve him in some capacity.

In July, he was placed under formal investigation on suspicion of seeking to influence judges who were looking into his affairs.

Other inquiries include one into his links with former Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi and another into illegal campaign funding in 2012.

Mr Sarkozy denies wrongdoing.

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