Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday he would impose a nationwide ban on burkinis if elected back to the presidency in 2017, positioning himself as a strong defender of French values and tough on immigration.
Hundreds of supporters waving French flags chanted "Nicolas! Nicolas!" and applauded as Sarkozy, a conservative president from 2007 to 2012 before losing an election to Socialist Francois Hollande, promised to protect the French people.
"I will be the president that re-establishes the authority of the state," Sarkozy told a crowd of more than 2,000 packing a sports hall in Chateaurenard, a Provence town where his Les Republicains beat the far-right Front National (FN) in regional elections last year.