Nicolas Sarkozy dramatically lifted the curtain on his bid to regain the French presidency yesterday by posting a Facebook message saying he will be a candidate for the leadership of the centre-right UMP party.
The comeback announcement by Mr Sarkozy, who had vowed never to return to politics after losing the last election to Francois Hollande, signals the start of a long race to succeed Mr Hollande in 2017.
He said he would be a candidate for the leadership of the centre-right UMP party in November - a move widely seen as a prelude to a presidential run. Dubbed "President Bling-Bling" for his high-profile lifestyle with model wife Carla Bruni, a penchant for showmanship and fondness for Rolex watches and Ray-Ban sunglasses, Mr Sarkozy is determined to exact revenge on Mr Hollande, the self-styled "President Normal".
It ended months of "will he, won't he" speculation fostered by Mr Sarkozy himself, who repeatedly dropped hints that he was needed to save France from the "ruinous" policies of Mr Hollande. Few French voters ever believed that he had been serious about retiring from politics for good.
The only genuine doubt was about the timing of his announcement. Initially planned for Thursday after a press conference by Mr Hollande, it was then said to be postponed until tomorrow.
In characteristically showman-like style, he then surprised the media and the public by moving it forward to yesterday. However, he is still expected to give a prime-time television interview tomorrow evening.
The social media announcement was seen as a calculated attempt to reach out to younger voters and show that Mr Sarkozy (59) is in tune with the times.
It took the form of a long letter to the public, beginning "My dear friends" and saying that "after long consideration" he had decided "to offer the French a new political choice".
The UMP, weakened by internal feuding since Mr Sarkozy's defeat in 2012, will elect a new leader at the end of November. His rivals are likely to be party barons Herve Mariton and Bruno Le Maire, but there is little doubt that Mr Sarkozy will win. He has indicated that he intends to rebuild the party with new, younger leaders and relaunch it in the hope of attracting both centrists and conservatives.
However, he is likely to encounter bigger obstacles on his path back to the Elysee Palace. He is likely to face tough competition to be nominated as the UMP's presidential candidate from two former prime ministers, Alain Juppé and François Fillon. Mr Juppé (69) a conservative heavyweight seen as a trusted elder statesman, is by far his most dangerous rival. He is more popular with the public than Mr Sarkozy. (© Daily Telegraph, London)