Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has confirmed his intention of stepping down from being the head of the conservative party in order to run in presidential election primaries.
Sarkozy on Saturday told members of his party that this was his last meeting at that position.
Sarkozy would not be able to run in those presidential primaries if he remained head of the party. He would need to resign two weeks before the application deadline on Sept. 9.
"This national council will be my last one as president of Les Republicains," he told a party meeting, calling for a fair contest and no acrimony between the potential nominees.
"This primary will be a time of competition between some strong personalities, between people of significant talent," he said.
"When the right goes into battle it has a front on the left and a front on the extreme right. That is why it is unacceptable that we should attack each other."
The winner of the primaries will face the far-right National Front's Marine Le Pen and a Socialist candidate, likely to be President Francois Hollande.
Sarkozy, who lost the presidency in 2012 to Socialist Francois Hollande, has not hidden his ambition to run in France's 2017 presidential election.
For much of this year, centre-right rival Alain Juppe has outpaced Sarkozy in opinion polls, but the man who was president between 2007 and 2012 is making a comeback among party supporters, a recent survey showed, a sign the battle could be more open than many thought.
The party's primaries are in November. Sarkozy is expected to face tough competition against 13 others in his party who have already declared their candidacies. So far, Sarkozy has not formally done so.His main competitor, former Prime Minister Alain Juppe, on Saturday criticized the "confusion between Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the party, and Nicolas Sarkozy, candidate campaigning for the primaries.
Supporters of Les Republicains and other right and centre-right parties will vote in November to decide who will be their candidate in the 2017 presidential election.
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