Nicolas Sarkozy said he would impose a nationwide ban on burkinis if elected back to the French presidency in 2017, positioning himself as a strong defender of French values and tough on immigration. Julian Satterthwaite reports.
Nicolas Sarkozy is back on the campaign trail. The former French president holding his first rally since announcing that he would run for the top job again. It's a move that once seemed unthinkable. He left office in 2012 with rock-bottom approval ratings. But successor Francois Hollande has since proved even more unpopular. Now Sarkozy is trying to win over anxious voters: (SOUNDBITE) (French) FORMER HEAD OF THE LES REPUBLICAINS POLITICAL PARTY AND FORMER FRENCH PRESIDENT, NICOLAS SARKOZY, SAYING: "The elite doesn't understand your daily life, it doesn't interest them. They and their families don't have to feel afraid when they go on public transport, or when they go back to their neighbourhood.' Security and immigration emerging as key issues in the race. That after France suffered a spate of terror attacks. Sarkozy is running on a hardline law-and-order platform in response. He's also backing the controversial ban on burkini swimwear on the Riviera. And says he would extend it to the whole of France. Some of his supporters want him to go further: (SOUNDBITE) (French) SARKOZY SUPPORTER, GERARD, SAYING: "He's a man that I admire, who might be a bit authoritarian but that's what's needed. Actually he's not authoritarian enough, you almost need a dictator at the moment in France." France's conservative Republican party will hold a primary in November to choose its candidate. Sarkozy's chief rival likely to be veteran politician Alain Juppe, a one time prime minister. Whoever wins will face a battle to win back votes from the far-right National Front. That means the rhetoric is unlikely to get any softer.