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Sarkozy seeks presidency again, promising 'strong France'

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has presided over a deep economic recession since taking office, formally threw his hat into the ring to seek another term.

By Staff writer / February 16, 2012

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (R) greets well-wishers as he campaigns for his re-election as the UMP political party candidate for the 2012 French presidential election, before his first political rally in Annecy February 16. Sarkozy declared his candidacy for a second term on Wednesday, seeking to overturn a wide opinion poll deficit with promises to get the unemployed back to work and to listen more to French voters by calling referendums on reforms.

Philippe Wojazer/REUTERS

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Paris

Trailing in polls and criticized by supporters for taking too long to unleash his formidable campaign skills, Nicolas Sarkozy has finally made his reelection campaign official, telling France, “Yes, I’m a candidate in the presidential election.”

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During his television announcement last night, the French leader broke briefly with his unapologetic style to say he will listen to voter concerns about unemployment, and admitted falling short on sweeping reforms he promised in 2007.

"If you want to make me say I haven't achieved everything, that is for sure,”  Mr. Sarkozy said in a 45-minute talk watched by 10 million. "I don't know anyone who has succeeded in everything.”

Sarkozy mainly presented himself as the French protector-in-chief. Facing Socialist Party frontrunner François Hollande amid a wrenching debt crisis, Sarkozy said he has the necessary experience, is the “captain of the ship” and will not “abandon his post” in the storm. His re-election motto is “Strong France.”

Can he present a fresh image?

The daily newspaper Le Parisian said Thursday that Sarkozy succeeded in presenting a “fresh image.” The first official Sarkozy Twitter account was opened yesterday, along with the “La France Forte” website. However, a "Sarko ca Suffit" Twitter hashtag – "Sarko we've had enough" – was also trending last night. 

The high-energy Sarkozy evokes fascination abroad as a leader who launched French jets last spring in Libya and is married to a popular model and singer. But his negatives at home approach 70 percent, where he is often seen as too gauche for a president and more in tune with the French "1 percent" than the 99 percent.

Unlike his successful 2007 campaign, Sarkozy must now run on a record and a reputation. The longtime French observer Christine Ockrent wrote in the Guardian this week that Sarkozy’s strengths in 2007 have become his weaknesses.

“The truth is that all the characteristics that made Sarkozy so appealing to a majority five years ago have become his frailties: his energy has turned into restlessness, his casual style into tastelessness, his pragmatism into cynicism and lack of conviction. There is intense Sarkozy fatigue in France,” she wrote.

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