French President Francois Hollande dramatically announced on Thursday he would not seek re-election at the end of his five-year term next April.
The withdrawal means the 62-year-old Socialist will be the first president of France's fifth republic, founded in 1958, to quit after just one term.
"I have decided that I will not be a candidate," Hollande said in a televised address from the Elysee Palace in Paris, according to AFP.
He conceded he had failed to rally his deeply divided Socialist party behind his candidacy and keep a promise to slash unemployment, which hovers at around one in 10 of the workforce.
"In the months to come, my only duty will be to continue to lead my country," he added.
Hollande’s term has been marked by U-turns on major policies, terror attacks, a sickly economy and embarrassing revelations about his private life.
A new poll on Wednesday predicted he would win just seven percent of votes in the first round of next year's election strengthening Socialist party critics who view him as a lame duck.
Voter surveys currently tip Republican party candidate Francois Fillon to win the election, with the far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen seen as the closest challenger.
Fillon won the second round of his party’s primaries earlier this week, defeating rival Alain Juppe.
With Hollande's decision, the party began accepting candidates on Thursday for its primaries, due on January 22 and 29. The presidential elections are due on April 23, with a runoff on May 7.
Arnaud Montebourg, a leftist former economy minister, has already submitted his name while Prime Minister Manuel Valls would also be expected to stand.
Valls upped pressure on Hollande last weekend to step aside when he hinted he might run against his boss in the primaries, according to AFP.
Reacting to Hollande’s announcement on Thursday, Valls called it “the choice of a true statesman.”
Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called it a "dignified and courageous decision."