Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy attends the inauguration of the Institut Claude Pompidou, a new centre for care and research of Alzheimer disease, in NiceParis: Allies of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy lined up to call for his return to head an opposition UMP party beset by crisis, setting the stage for a comeback that could propel him to a re-election bid in 2017.

Sarkozy, who lost power to Socialist President Francois Hollande in 2012, has since avoided direct involvement in politics but is widely expected to seek re-election in 2017 and has been commenting with increasing frequency on European current affairs.

With his former UMP party in crisis, hit by a campaign funding scandal that forced its chief to step down and set off a leadership contest, friends of the former president urged him to take its reins and run for president.