French President François Hollande has announced that he will not be seeking re-election in 2017.
He has become the first sitting president in modern French history not to run for re-election. The Socialist party leader has been facing sliding ratings in opinion polls, with his popularity falling to just four per cent recently.
Hollande made the announcement on live TV, saying that he was aware that it was risky to pull out of the race. He also warned of the strength of the Front National, the far-right party headed up by Marine Le Pen.
Former economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, described Hollande's decision to step back as "courageous".
There will now be a contest within the Socialist party to find a different candidate. A likely favourite is prime minister Manuel Valls; he said last week that he is ready to stand.
The other two candidates for the election next May are Francois Fillon for Les Republicains and Marine Le Pen for Front National.
A recent survey showed that Fillon was ahead in the race, but after Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as the President of the US, Le Pen's nationalist movement is feeling emboldened.
Fillon became the candidate for the centre-right party last weekend, comfortably beating his opponent Alain Juppe in the primary. Fillon won 68.6 per cent of the vote, and is now Le Pen's main challenger for the presidency.
"I must now convince the whole country our project is the only one that can lift us up," Fillon said at his campaign headquarters.
Fillon, 62, is a socially conservative free-marketeer and former French prime minister.