Incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced his bid for another term in office. But analysts say Mr. Sarkozy's chances of being reelected are far from certain.
Many analysts had expected that French President Nicolas Sarkozy would wait until next month would wait until next month to make his announcement, just a few weeks before a first round of voting on April 22.
Mr. Sarkozy made the announcement on Wednesday night. In an interview on TF1 TV, Mr. Sarkozy said he was running for reelection and that he had made his decision a few weeks ago.
Mr. Sarkozy said he could not abandon his role as France's leader at a time when the country is battling an economic crisis that is affecting the rest of Europe and the world. He likened his role to that of a captain of a boat in a storm.
Pressure had been mounting for Mr. Sarkozy to formally declare his candidacy. His political opponents say he is misusing government funds to make what essentially are campaign speeches at public gatherings. Mr. Sarkozy says he is doing his job by letting the French people know his positions as the country's leader.
Mr. Sarkozy faces an uphill battle to win a second term. Public opinion surveys show him trailing his main challenger, Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande.
Mr. Hollande campaigned in the Normandy city of Rouen on Wednesday.
A Harris Interactive survey says 28 percent of people who intend to vote in the upcoming election support Mr. Hollande, compared to 24 percent who say they will vote for Mr. Sarkozy.
The French President has earned the endorsement of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But analysts say that might not be to Mr. Sarkozy's advantage because critics complain that France is letting Germany take the lead in the eurozone policies.
Political scientist Steven Ekovich of The American University of Paris says that although only weeks remain before the election, a lot could change. "Sarkozy is a very good campaigner, we've seen that. On the other hand, the French seem to feel a change is necessary at the same time," he said.
Mr. Sarkozy is expected to put his usual energy into his reelection bid under the slogan of a "Strong France." He already has launched Facebook and Twitter accounts on the Internet to support his campaign. And he is scheduled to hold his first political rally this week.
The third main presidential candidate is National Front politician Marine Le Pen. The latest poll gives her 20 percent of likely votes. But Ms. Le Pen has yet to obtain the necessary 500 signatures from local officials to put her on the ballot.