French President Francois Hollande will not seek re-election

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French President François Hollande (File photo)

(CNN) — France's President Francois Hollande confirmed Thursday he will not seek a second term in office.

French voters will go to the polls in April and May 2017, but Hollande, who has been beset by low popularity ratings, says he will not stand for re-election.

"I am speaking to you this evening to inform you of the decision I have taken in view of the forthcoming presidential election," he said. "I have decided not to be a candidate in the presidential election."

Hollande's Socialist Party will now have to find a candidate to run against Francois Fillon, of the center-right Republican Party, and Marine Le Pen, of the far-right Front National.

Hollande, 62, defeated Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 to become the first Socialist president to win a French election since François Mitterrand's re-election in 1988.

He cited achievements under his watch, including opening up marriage to all couples, strengthening women's equality and fighting against discrimination.

He said unemployment had declined since the beginning of the year, but conceded "it remains at too high a level."

France has been hit by several major terrorist attacks, in Paris and Nice, during his presidency, events that he touched on during his address.

"The world, Europe and France went through particularly severe tests during my term in office.

"In these terrible circumstances, I wanted national cohesion to be maintained, so that we could avoid division and stigmatization ... I took the necessary measures."

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