PARIS (Reuters) - Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy plans to step down as head of Les Republicains party, he said on Saturday, confirming expectations he will run in primaries for the presidential election nomination.
Center-right supporters will vote in November to decide who will be their candidate in the 2017 presidential election to face the far-right National Front's Marine Le Pen and a Socialist candidate, likely to be President Francois Hollande.
"This national council will be my last one as president of Les Republicains," he told a party meeting.
Sarkozy could not run in the primaries if he remained head of the party. He would need to resign two weeks before the application deadline on Sept. 9.
Long distanced in polls by rival Alain Juppe, Sarkozy is making a comeback among party supporters, a survey showed, a sign the battle for Les Republicains' presidential election nomination is more open than many thought.
(Reporting by Sophie Louet, writing by Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by Susan Thomas)