Nicolas Sarkozy is making a political comeback in France despite his legal troubles.

Sarkozy has joined the race to lead his conservative UMP party in a barely-concealed first step toward trying to win the presidency in 2017.

Sarkozy, president from 2007 to 2012, announced his candidacy on Facebook on Friday.

In a long letter, he says "I have decided to propose a new political choice to the French."

Sarkozy, the 59-year-old husband of model-turned-singer Carla Bruni, is facing legal problems linked to corruption accusations.

But his successor, Socialist Francois Hollande, has become the most unpopular French leader of modern times over his handling of the dragging economy, and polls suggest some voters want Sarkozy to return.