French president François Hollande announced live on TV on Thursday night, that he will not be running for re-election next time.
Hollande spoke for several minutes to defend his record as president before declaring that he will not be running for re-election.
“I have decided that I will not be a candidate,” the 62-year-old Socialist said in a solemn TV address to the nation.
“In the months to come, my only duty will be to continue to lead my country,” said Hollande who becomes the first post-war French president not to seek re-election.
Hollande’s popularity had decreased after a term in office marked by U-turns on major policies, terror attacks, high unemployment and embarrassing revelations about his private life.
A new poll on Wednesday predicted he would win just 7.0 percent of votes in the first round of next year’s election in April — strengthening critics in the Socialist party who viewed him as a lame duck.
He had promised to be the “normal” president as the answer to his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, called the “bling-bling” president. But France and its sluggish economy and high unemployment needed strong leadership and clear direction.
Voter surveys currently tip rightwing Republicans party candidate Francois Fillon to win the election, with the far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen seen as his closest challenger.
But with the full range of candidates still unknown and the role of independents such as 38-year-old ex-minister Emmanuel Macron difficult to predict, analysts urge caution about the forecasts.
Hollande’s withdrawal leads the field open for France’s divided ruling Socialist party which began accepting candidates on Thursday for a party primary race due on January 22 and 29.
Arnaud Montebourg, a leftist former economy minister, has already submitted his name while ambitious Prime Minister Manuel Valls would also be expected to run.
Mr Hollande was said to be particularly affected by the decision of his former protege and economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, to resign and declare his intention to run on a centrist, pro-business ticket independent of the Socialist Party primary race.
Mr Macron on Thursday night described Mr Hollande’s announcement as a “brave decision and a dignified decision”.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, another popular figure of the far-Left, has also announced his intention to stand for president independently.
Mr Fillon said Mr Hollande’s decision showed he was “lucid” about what he called “his clear failure”.
Mamadou Dian Donghol Diallo