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France

Macron’s popularity rating falls to 40%

media French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech before a debate on the Future of Europe at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, April 17, 2018. Reuters

Sixty percent of French voters are unhappy with President Emmanuel Macron, a survey said Wednesday, with strikes and protests growing as the ambitious young reformer prepares to mark a year in office.

Some 58 percent of people declared themselves dissatisfied with the 40-year-old, who has sparked anger among some groups by announcing reforms to everything from the courts and education system to the national rail operator.

The Ifop-Fiducial poll was broadly in line with other surveys showing an approval rate at around 40 percent almost a year after Macron swept to power last May at the head of a new centrist party.

A majority -- 57 percent -- agreed Macron was keeping his electoral promises after a campaign in which the political upstart pledged to slim down the state and make France more competitive.

"I'm doing what I said I would," he told TF1 television during an interview last week, part of a media blitz to reconnect with voters and defend his reform agenda ahead of the anniversary.

The poll comes as Macron faces three months of rolling strikes on the railways over his plans to shake up heavily-indebted operator SNCF, scrapping early retirement and other benefits for new hires.

The latest in a series of mass public sector strikes over his cost-cutting plans is planned Thursday, while students at numerous universities around France are blocking faculty buildings over his higher education reforms.

On foreign policy, where Macron has pursued an energetic role, from the Middle East to climate diplomacy, the verdict was more positive than on domestic affairs.

Some 67 percent agreed that his passionate defence of the EU had been "positive" for relations with the bloc, while 63 percent said he had improved France's image abroad.

And 56 percent said the pro-business president had boosted economic growth and France's attractiveness as an investment destination, following a wave of positive economic data.

But only 27 percent said they support increased taxes for retirees, and just 18 percent said he was improving healthcare.

Just 30 percent agreed that Macron was "in touch with French people's concerns", following accusations from leftwingers that his tax cuts for the wealthy make him a "president of the rich".

The survey for Paris Match magazine, Sud Radio and CNEWS television questioned 1,200 people online between April 12 and April 16.

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