Nicolas Sarkozy launches his comeback campaign to win a centre-right party nomination as candidate for France's 2017 presidential election. Is the former president strong enough medicine to combat France's ills? David Pollard reports.
If France is the sick man of Europe, is this the cure? His fans think so. Nicolas Sarkozy used his first comeback rally in Lille to launch a broadside on the incumbents - and on France's National Front. As partly to blame for losing to President Francois Hollande two years ago. SOUNDBITE (French) FORMER FRENCH PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY SAYING: "I solemnly denounce the alliance - as obvious as it is disgraceful - between the Socialist Party and the National Front. I have been Madame Le Pen's prime target for years." The former president says he'll seek the leadership of the main rightist UMP party ahead of the next presidential race in 2017. He's pledged to change the tax system to help companies - and to win back National Front voters one by one. And used this opportunity to bash Hollande's campaign promise of being ''normal''. SOUNDBITE) (French) FORMER FRENCH PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY SAYING: "A normal presidency? We can imagine what it would have been like otherwise .... " Hollande has seen his popularity plunge to a record low in the latest polls. The recent Air France strike, say critics, a high-profile reminder of how difficult economic reform is. Social reform was also a target: namely Hollande's decision to allow same sex marriage in France - but after months of street protests. SOUNDBITE (French) FORMER FRENCH PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY SAYING: "The way the French were put against each other was a serious mistake which will stain Mr Hollande's mandate for a long time. I don't want to cause hurt through our words or our behaviour to those who don't think like us." Despite the promise, Sarkozy remains a divisive figure in French politics. And investors are cautious. Simon Smith is with FXPro. SOUNDBITE (English) SIMON SMITH, FXPRO: ''Whatever political persuasion, reform has always been hugely difficult in France. You're seeing that in the pilots' union, you're seeing in terms of the public finances - they haven't run a surplus for the last nearly 40 years or so. So I really don't get the feeling that a change of leadership is going to create the momentum towards change that is really needed in France.'' Sarkozy's main rivals for the leadership are his former prime minister Francois Fillon and foreign minister Alan Juppe. They've warned he'll face a tough fight. For now, everyone joins together in singing the French national anthem. Perhaps in hope of a presidential victory celebration to come.