President Nicolas Sarkozy confirms France election bid
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has formally declared he will stand for re-election in the presidential polls on 22 April.
Mr Sarkozy's candidacy has never been in doubt but he issued the confirmation during an interview on France's TF1 channel.
Mr Sarkozy's main challenger in the election is the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande.
Opinion polls suggest Mr Hollande will win both the first round and a run-off.
There are fewer than 10 weeks to go to election day, and Mr Sarkozy said his decision had been "serious" and "not automatic".
But he said he believed he had the right policies for France over the next five years.
He said: "I took this decision because France, Europe and the world have for the last three years seen a series of unprecedented crises, which means that not seeking a new mandate from the French people would be abandoning my duties."
Mr Sarkozy pointed to the growth in the French economy in the final quarter of last year, which he said was higher than all other major European economies.
He said: "There are still too many people unemployed but our reforms are beginning to have an effect."
Mr Sarkozy criticised Mr Hollande for concentrating too much on attacking him.
Mr Sarkozy said his main opponent was "respectable" but asked: "Where are the ideas he is going to put forward?"
The president has been stepping up his profile recently, launching his own Twitter account on Wednesday and planning a large rally in the southern port of Marseille on Sunday.
Mr Sarkozy said he was "the captain of a boat in the heart of a storm".
Mr Hollande tried to upstage Mr Sarkozy by staging a televised rally in his hometown of Rouen shortly before the president's announcement.
"He has been wrong for five years and now he calls that experience," Mr Hollande told supporters.
The latest Harris survey on Wednesday suggested Mr Hollande would take the first round by 28% to 24% and a run-off vote by 57% to 43%.
The only other candidate opinion polls suggest may be close in the first round is the far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who is generating support of about 20%.
Centrist Francois Bayrou is hoping to repeat his good showing of 2007.
Other candidates include the communist Jean-Luc Melenchon, Green candidate Eva Joly, and bitter Sarkozy enemy and former PM Dominique de Villepin.