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Conservative Leader Sarkozy Announces Bid To Retake French Presidency

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he will try to return to the office. He's pushing hard-line policies on immigration and security.
Virginia Mayo
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he will try to return to the office. He's pushing hard-line policies on immigration and security.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he's running once again for the presidency — years after a failed re-election bid that was seen as a rebuke to his leadership.

The conservative politician announced his decision to run in 2017 elections by publishing on social media an excerpt from his soon-to-be-released book. Reuters has this quote from the announcement:

"I felt I had the strength to lead this battle at a troubled time in our history. ... The five years that come will be full of danger, but also of hope."

Sarkozy, who was deeply unpopular when he left office, had been taking aim at President Francois Hollande's record on security leading up to his announcement, "urging France to get tough on immigration, crack down on suspected Islamists and halt the erosion of France's secular identity," Reuters reports.

The Guardian adds Sarkozy has veered right in an attempt to win over far right voters:

"In his fight to win his party's nomination, Sarkozy, 61, is putting forward a platform of policies that veer even further to the far right than in 2012, when he set out to win over voters from Marine Le Pen's Front National.

"He wants to ban the Muslim headscarf from universities and public companies, limit the French nationality rights of children born to foreign parents, and ban pork-free options in school canteens, meaning Muslim and Jewish children would no longer be offered a substitute meal.

"He has also scoffed at what he called 'legal niceties' in the fight against terrorism, prompting the left to warn that his treatment of suspected jihadis could be akin to that of Guantánamo Bay."

Courting center-right voters could be a challenge for Sarkozy, Reuters continues, with mainstream conservative candidate and former Prime Minister Alain Juppe heavily favored in polls.

Moreover, Sarkozy left office a deeply unpopular incumbent in 2012. As NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reported during his re-election loss, most of the French electorate held an unfavorable view of Sarkozy:

"They feel that Sarkozy compromised French values like human rights, justice, equality, you know, all of his anti-immigrant talks. And they're angry about that. They say that's not France, and they want a new president who will make people equal again, who will bring up the little man. ...

"[T]he biggest feeling is that this is a breath of equality. The meanness has sort of — they say Sarkozy put his pals in positions of power, and he was, you know, a president of the rich, and he divided people."

Since leaving office, Sarkozy has been the subject of corruption allegations but has never been indicted.

Hollande, himself an unpopular incumbent, has not announced intentions for a second term.

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