Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy said on Sunday he had “no choice” but to return to politics because his country lacked hope and perspective.
“The fifth power in the world should not have to choose between the humiliating spectacle of today and total isolation,” he said. “That is the perspective of the Front national.”
France is the world’s fifth-largest economy.
In an interview with France 2 television, the former leader, who lost his reelection bid in 2012 with 48 percent support against the Socialist Party’s François Hollande, described France as “one of the rare countries where there is a lack of hope.”
Low growth and stubbornly high unemployment have caused Hollande’s approval ratings to plummet. No French leader since the start of the Fifth Republic in 1958 has been less popular.
An Ifop poll released earlier this month showed the Front national‘s Marine Le Pen beating Hollande in a hypothetical runoff with 54 percent support. Her Euroskeptic and nationalist party draws support especially from working-class voters who used to support the left.
Sarkozy announced on Friday he would stand for the leadership of his Union pour un mouvement populaire — a likely stepping stone to another presidential bid in 2017.
Rocked by infighting and a financial scandal that forced Sarkozy’s protégé, Jean-François Copé, to step down as party leader during the summer, the conservatives performed poorly in May’s European Parliament elections, winning under 21 percent support, compared to almost 29 percent in 2009. They lost seats to both the Front national and François Bayrou’s outspokenly pro-European Mouvement démocrate.
The party is temporarily led by three former prime ministers, including François Fillon, a centrist who served under Sarkozy from 2007 to 2012, and Alain Juppé, one of President Jacques Chirac’s premiers. Fillon and Juppé are both seen as potential presidential contenders for the 2017 election as well.
Polls suggest French voters overall favor Juppé while Sarkozy is more popular among conservatives.