Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has retired from political life after his humiliating defeat by party colleagues last night as he battled to regain the French presidency.
Mr Sarkozy finished third in the first round on the primary vote for the centre-right Republicans party, behind former Prime Ministers François Fillon and Alain Juppé.
“I did not manage to convince the voters,” Mr Sarkozy said. “I have no bitterness, no sadness, and I wish all the best for my country, for you my fellow citizens, and for the one who will lead this country I love so much.”
He added it was time for him to go back to a life with “more private and fewer public passions”.
Messrs Fillon and Juppé will now go forward to a second round to choose the Republican candidate for next year’s presidential election, with polls giving Fillon the edge.
Whoever wins will likely go head-to-head with National Front leader Marine Le Pen for the French Presidency. Ms Le Pen is currently riding high in the polls, although the establishment media still believe she faces defeat in a run-off.
An Ipsos poll this weekend gave the National Front leader 29 per cent support, eight points ahead of her nearest rival, and her strongest performance so far.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls conceded last week that it was now “possible” Ms Le Pen could be elected President next year.
“If she does make it to the second round she will face either a candidate of the left or the right. This means that the balance of politics will change completely.”
Under her leadership, the National Front has gone from strength-to-strength, moving to the mainstream of French politics and winning the 2014 European Elections in the country with 24.9 per cent of the vote.