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.