Sarkozy tumbles in the polls as French fret over their euros

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President Nicolas Sarkozy is taking a beating in the polls as the French grow increasingly worried about their pocketbooks

   PARIS, February 1, 2008 - President Nicolas Sarkozy is taking a beating
in the polls, his popularity dropping to its lowest level since he took office
as the French grow increasingly worried about their pocketbooks.
   Eight months after he was elected on a promise to usher in sweeping
economic reform, Sarkozy's approval rating has dropped sharply to 41 percent,
down eight points in a month, according to a TNS-Sofres poll to be released at
the weekend.
   The fall comes amid a gloomy economic outlook and ahead of municipal
elections in March that the opposition Socialists are casting as a referendum
on Sarkozy's presidency.
   The latest tumble prompted the popular Le Parisien newspaper on Thursday to
proclaim "Sarkozy in a freefall" and that "the time for disappointment with
Sarkozy has come."
   The TNS-Sofres poll to be published in Le Figaro magazine shows 41 percent
of the French still trust the president compared to 55 percent who have lost
faith -- pushing Sarkozy deep into negative ratings.
   A second poll by the CSA institute showed 52 percent of those surveyed felt
Sarkozy's policies were "headed in the wrong direction" even though the
president gets high marks on international diplomacy.
   Driving the drop is growing perceptions that Sarkozy is not delivering on
his promise to rev up the economy, in particular spending power which topped
surveys of the French voters' most pressing concern even during the campaign.
   "Why is the president falling in the polls? Because the French people are
impatient, they want results," said deputy Frederic Lefebvre from Sarkozy's
governing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party.
   Parliament on Thursday adopted a law on boosting spending power that
includes a measure that would allow workers to trade for cash holidays accrued
under the 35-hour workweek scheme.
   Sarkozy earlier this month admitted he had little leverage to boost
consumer spending, saying the "state coffers are empty" and that the
government should not be expected to come up with a hand-out.
   The remarks marked a climbdown for Sarkozy who had vowed to be the
"president who delivers on purchasing power" during his campaign as well as
promising to bring down unemployment and boost economic growth.
   "When he was a candidate for office, the president exposed himself
personally on this issue," commented Mathieu Kaiser, an analyst with BNP
   "There are expectations but it is also a situation that the government does
not completely have under its control," he said.
   Economic growth, which the government had forecast for 2008 at two percent,
is expected to be limited to 1.4--1.6 percent, in line with the expected
slowdown in Europe, according to economists.
   French consumer confidence meanwhile plummeted to an all-time low in
January while inflation went up.
   As the French were fretting over their hard-won euros, photos of Sarkozy on
vacation with his new girlfriend Carla Bruni last month irked voters who felt
the president was more interested in romance than in the affairs of the state.
   Over the past month, the hyper-active president has sought to seize back
the initiative, with a series of trips across France to discuss pocketbook
woes and show he is addressing the issue.


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