French president Francois Hollande has announced he will not stand for re-election.
Just two days ago, the incumbent leader was being touted as the Socialist candidate in 2017.
But he has stunned the country by announcing he will not run, becoming the first sitting president in modern French history not to seek a second term.
His popularity ratings have plummeted and he has had to contend with three devastating terror attacks during his term which left hundreds of people dead.
The country has been in a state of emergency since gunmen launched coordinated attacks in Paris last November, killing 130 victims.
In an address to the public on TV, he said people needed to be very aware of the risk from the far-right National Front.
Far right leader Marine Le Pen is expected to make big gains after the vote.
She will face François Fillon, the Republican nominee and former prime minister, who was chosen to lead the centre-right party last week.
But it is unclear who will take the baton as socialist candidate, though Prime Minister Manuel Valls is seen as the favourite.
Hollande decided to stand back from the race after his satisfaction rating dropped to just 4%, making him the least popular president since WWII.
The presidential election will take place in April and May next year.