Former French economy minister Arnaud Montebourg has formally entered the country's presidential race.

Montebourg announced his candidacy Thursday in the presidential primary France's Socialist party has scheduled for January.

The 54-year-old Montebourg's politics are firmly left-leaning. He lost his cabinet position in 2014 because he denounced president Francois Hollande's pro-business shift.

During a speech in Paris, Montebourg says he favors a strong state to protect France's industry from "foreign interests."

Another former economy minister of Hollande's, centrist Emmanuel Macron also is seeing the presidency but without taking part into a primary. Macron advocates free market policies.

Hollande must say whether he will stand for re-election before a Dec. 15 deadline.

The French conservatives have chosen former prime minister Francois Fillon as their nominee for the April-May presidential election..