Sarkozy hits new ratings low

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Disapproval ratings of the French president hit all time high of 64 percent - the deepest negative rating recorded since 1981.

29 April 2008

PARIS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy has plunged to a new ratings low according to a poll released Monday, with a record number of voters unhappy with his performance a year after he took office.

Sarkozy's approval rating dropped eight points in a month to 32 percent, according to the BVA-l'Express poll, carried out before the president gave a prime-time interview defending his programme of reforms last week.

Both Sarkozy's predecessors had hit similar lows in the BVA survey: Jacques Chirac in late 1995 after a paralysing strike over reform plans, and Francois Mitterrand who sank to 31 percent in 1992, in the closing years of his mandate.

But with 64 percent of respondents saying they disapprove of the president, it is the deepest negative rating recorded since the polling institute started its regular monthly surveys in 1981.

Elected last May on a promise to kickstart the French economy, Sarkozy has seen his popularity plummet among voters worried about rising living costs and irked by his high-profile divorce and remarriage to ex-model Carla Bruni.

Survey after survey shows that the cost of living has replaced unemployment as the number one concern of French voters - with Sarkozy accused of reneging on a central election pledge to boost purchasing power.

For the first time Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who had remained popular as Sarkozy's ratings tumbled, also sank into negative figures, with 46 percent unhappy with his record against 43 who approved of it.

According to the BVA study, Sarkozy's rating dropped most sharply among supporters of his own right-wing UMP party.

For the first time since his election, he has slid into negative ratings even among older voters - part of his core constituency - with 55 percent now disapproving of his record.

The poll of 994 people was carried out last week ahead of a hotly-awaited television appearance by Sarkozy, cast as a chance for him to turn the tide of public opinion.

In the interview the president admitted to personal errors and said he had heeded the lessons of his first difficult year in power.

The president last week faulted high oil and food prices, the strong euro and the world financial crisis for the perceived lack of improvement in living standards since his election, and reaffirmed his commitment to modernising the French economy.

But the left-wing opposition accuses Sarkozy of bringing in austerity measures with a plan to trim EUR 7 billion off the public deficit, after bringing in tax breaks it says benefited the wealthiest.

High school students have staged three weeks of protests against plans to cut 11,200 education jobs as part of a drive to streamline the public service.

As France marks the 40-year anniversary of the May 1968 student revolts, a clear majority - 65 percent - of voters support the student protests, a number rocketing to 80 percent among 18-24 year olds.

"It is possible that the president's highly-mediatised intervention has shaken things up a bit since last week," said BVA head Jerome Sainte-Marie.

But unless Sarkozy's performance manages to halt his downward slide, the institute warned, "there is a risk that the high-school student movement could crystallise the dissatisfaction of French people in the coming weeks."

[AFP / ANP / Expatica]

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