PARIS — Nicolas Sarkozy says he's learned a few things about himself in the two-and-a-half years since his bitter defeat in France's 2012 presidential elections.
Sarkozy used a 45-minute prime-time TV interview Sunday evening to explain why he's going back on a pledge he made to quit political life for good.
Sarkozy says that as president between 2007 and 2012, "I sometimes thought that I could succeed alone," and that he carelessly turned people against him with polarizing speech.
Sarkozy says he decided to seek the leadership of his conservative UMP party in elections next month because "I don't want my country to be condemned to the perspective of total isolation" that he predicts will happen if France's far-right National Front party continues its rise.
When he left the Elysee Palace in 2012, Sarkozy said he was leaving politics and would find a different way to serve his country.
His widely expected move to join the race to lead the UMP party is seen as a first step toward running for president in 2017.
Sarkozy said he was moved to return to politics by the "hopelessness, anger and lack of future" that he senses among the French.
"We are one of the only countries with such a sense of hopelessness," Sarkozy said. "I want to participate in lifting up my country."
Sarkozy's successor, Socialist Francois Hollande, has become the most unpopular French leader of modern times over his handling of the economy, and Sarkozy's UMP party, which he led before running for president the first time, is a nest of divisions in a leadership vacuum.