Jean-Louis Borloo stood down in November 2010 after weeks of speculation that President Sarkozy was about to give him the job of prime minister, replacing François Fillon who has held the post since May 2007.
Instead, Fillon stayed in place leading a humiliated Borloo to announce his resignation. From that moment, Borloo has been building his power base and was expected to stand as a centrist candidate in the presidential elections.
Borloo said on the main 8pm news programme on TF1 that he didn't feel there was enough support for a centre candidate "to get through to the second round of voting."
The French presidential election is held in two rounds. In the first, to be held on April 22nd, voters choose from a long list of candidates. In the last election in 2007, there were 12 candidates in the first round.
The top two candidates then go into a second round of voting, which will take place on Sunday May 6th.
The scenario of a Borloo candidacy was worrying for Sarkozy's party as it risked splitting the centre and right-wing vote, helping the Socialists and even risking the possibility that Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National would sneak through to win a place in the final run-off between the leading two candidates. This was the situation in 2002 when Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie, faced Jacques Chirac in the second round.
Borloo cited this risk as one of the reasons for pulling out, referring to "an economic crisis without precedent", he said "things are sufficiently disturbed that I don't want to add confusion to confusion."
Borloo also commented on the wave of scandals that have hit President Sarkozy over recent months when he talked about "a general climate of suspicion linked to an interminable judicial soap opera." This, he felt, could push voters to extremes.
"The populist risk is real, in France and in Europe," he said. "I do not want to increase this risk for the French."
Borloo had a long ministerial career taking the employment, finance and ecology briefs in governments between 2002 and 2010. He is a popular figure, although was only managing to poll between 7 and 9 percent in opinion polls, putting him well behind the two front-runners, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande.