Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has claimed he may have a “moral duty” to stand for re-election as leader because the Socialists were ruining France.
Sarkozy said he had “no wish” to be president again but may be forced to do so for the good of his country.
Any new bid for the leadership would also be against the wishes of wife Carla Bruni – who has said publicly she does not want him to return to the Élysée Palace.
But 58-year-old Mr Sarkozy – now earning millions on the international lecture circuit – told the right-leaning Valeurs Actuelles news magazine: “There unfortunately comes a time when the question is no longer ‘Do I want to?’ but ‘Do I have a choice?’
“In that case, I would no longer be able to keep telling myself I am happy, I’ll take my little girl to school, I’ll keep giving lectures all over the world. In that case, I’d effectively be obliged to stand. Not by desire. By duty. Solely because it’s about France.”
Asked if he was motivated by revenge on Francois Hollande, who beat him in last May’s election, he replied: “What kind of revenge would that be?
“It would be to retake control of France after the state the Socialists have left it in. Don’t you think I realise I’m not immortal. So honestly, do I really want to return to politics? No.”
His words come after mounting calls from France’s right wing for Mr Sarkozy to challenge president Hollande again in 2017.
Former First Lady Bernadette Chirac, 79, has said she would like to see him back, despite a long-running grudge between her husband and Mr Sarkozy.
Mrs Chirac said in January: “I personally wish that Nicolas Sarkozy would run again. And you will see that the result will be completely positive and different from the last time.”
Mr Sarkozy’s former foreign minister and close friend Alain Juppe also let slip six weeks ago that Mr Sarkozy may run again in four years time.
He told French television: “I get the feeling that he will - even if it’s not for me to answer that question in his place.
Former supermodel wife Bruni said last year she did not want her husband to return to politics.
She told the French media: “I have no wish for Nicolas to get involved in all that again. We’re very happy with our lives.”
Mr Sarkozy is also now facing corruption charges accused of accepting illegal party funding payments from France’s richest woman and L’Oreal heiress Lilian Bettencourt.
He denies the accusations.