In an interview with Le Figaro, Sarkozy suggested he has high-minded reasons for postponing his announcement, The Guardian reported. He has until March 16 to officially declare his candidacy in the April-May election.
"I thank those who feel I should have started campaigning earlier," Sarkozy said. "Maybe they were right. Maybe it would have been in my interest to do so. But before my interest come the interests of my position."
Critics say Sarkozy hopes to sway voters as president without having to comply with France's strict election laws.
If that is Sarkozy's strategy, it could be backfiring. A poll this week showed him running 10 points behind socialist Francois Holland in the second round of voting.
Marine Le Pen is expected to gain enough votes to keep either Sarkozy or Holland from winning an absolute majority in the first round.
On Friday, Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement announced a rally Feb. 19 in Marseille, Radio France Internationale reported. That suggests the president will declare his candidacy in the next few days.