London [UK], Aug. 26 : Former conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy is positioning himself as a strong defender of French values and tough on immigration saying that he will impose a nationwide ban on burkinis if re-elected to the presidency in 2017.
Hundreds of his supporters chanted "Nicolas! Nicolas!" and applauded as Sarkozy promised to protect the French people in his first rally for the 2017 election, reports the Guardian.
"I will be the president that re-establishes the authority of the state. I want to be the president who guarantees the safety of France and of every French person," Sarkozy told a crowd in a sports hall in Chateaurenard in Provence.
Taking a hard line on the burkini debate that has agitated France over the past weeks, Sarkozy said that the full-body swimwear should be banned from beaches across the country.
"I refuse to let the burkini impose itself in French beaches and swimming pools ... there must be a law to ban it throughout the republic's territory," he said. Several seaside towns have already outlawed the full-body swimwear, arguing that it breaks French laws on secularism, but there is no national ban.
However, France's highest court - the State Council - is yet to rule in a case on Friday brought by the Human Rights League and an anti-Islamophobia group to reverse a decision by the southern town of Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice, to ban the full-body swimsuits.
Sarkozy is seeking to win back votes from the far-right and his rising popularity mirrors that of populist politicians in other countries that have appealed to voters concerned about globalisation and immigration, such as US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and the leaders of Britain's Brexit campaign.
For months Sarkozy lagged in opinion polls but his popularity rose after Islamist attacks on a Bastille Day crowd in Nice and on a priest in Normandy.
Many are protesting the Burkini ban and demonstrators even staged an impromptu beach party wearing burkinis outside the French embassy in London.