France is a much more polarised country after his five-year term in the Elysee, and, as the results from the first round of voting in the presidential election have confirmed, his detractors arguably now outnumber his admirers.
Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party candidate, won 28.6 per cent of the votes, the interior ministry confirmed on Monday morning. Sarkozy, the sitting president and candidate for the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP by its French acronym), came second, with 27.2 per cent.
Sunday's results suggest many of those who voted for the UMP candidate in 2007 have since abandoned him for the far-right National Front.
With the run-off round of voting set for May 6, whether or not he can manage the challenging task of winning those voters back will be the decisive test of his presidency.