PARIS – Nicolas Sarkozy injected glamour and energy into the French presidency — and yet also inspired so much anger and resentment that French voters refuse to let him have it back.
Sarkozy has now failed twice to win re-election, and says he's going to concentrate on his "private passions" instead of political ones. However, the unorthodox and outspoken 61-year-old has said that before.
The son of a Hungarian immigrant father and French-Greek mother, Sarkozy became mayor at 28 and soon set his sights higher. Unafraid to break French taboos, Sarkozy spoke out against labor protections and immigration, went jogging and biking in public even when in high office, and befriended billionaires.
Hated and loved with equal passion, Sarkozy became president in 2007 with bold promises to reinvigorate France, but many of his pledges fizzled.
Dubbed "Sarko the American," he tightened ties with the U.S. and Israel, claimed credit for ending a war in Georgia and saving the European Union, and championed NATO intervention to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
His personal life was no less dramatic. His second wife Cecilia joined him in their photogenic entry to the Elysee Palace, with their five children from various marriages. But within a year they divorced — a first for a French president — and weeks later, Sarkozy appeared at Disneyland with supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni. Their romance and lifestyle made them tabloid fare, but turned off many voters.
By 2012, Sarkozy's star had faded and he lost the presidency to Socialist Francois Hollande. Sarkozy quit politics, gave lectures, followed his wife's singing tours — then came back last year to join the 2017 presidential race. But he didn't even make it past the first round of his conservative party's primary, eliminated Sunday from the running.
And his problems aren't over: He's embroiled in multiple legal cases, notably over financing of his past presidential campaigns.
"Good luck to France. Good luck to you my dear fellow citizens," Sarkozy said as he left the campaign Sunday. "Goodbye to all."