French President François Hollande said that he would not be putting forward his candidacy to run for re-election in 2017, media reports said.
"Power has never caused me to lose my clarity. Thus, I am aware of the risks I would run in a candidacy that would not rally support. I have decided, therefore, not to be a candidate in the presidential election," he said in a 10-minute televised speech on Thursday.
Hollande, 62, becomes the first French head of state to renounce a chance at re-election, Efe news agency reported.
Hollande offered a defence of his administration, one of France's least popular governments in decades, while decrying protectionism and other proposals of the populist right.
The President's surprise announcement came on the first day to register as a candidate in the Socialist primary.
Representing the party's left wing, former Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg has already announced his candidacy and Hollande's decision clears the way for Prime Minister Manuel Valls to enter the race.
Polls showed Hollande trailing not only conservative candidate François Fillon, but also Marine Le Pen, the standard-bearer of the rightist National Front, as well as leftist hopefuls Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Luc Melenchon.
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