Popular French PM Valls loses shine

July 21, 2014 - 5:31:37 am

PARIS:  French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has slipped below a 50 percent approval rating for the first time since he was nominated in a March cabinet reshuffle, a poll showed yesterday, as President Francois Hollande remained deeply unpopular.

Valls, who replaced ex-PM Jean-Marc Ayrault after the ruling Socialists suffered a bruising defeat in local elections, has presided over an economic policy shift which centred around hefty payroll tax cuts for companies meant to improve their competitiveness. 

Left-wing unions strongly opposed the move. Valls, formerly a tough-talking interior minister, remains the most popular of Hollande’s cabinet, but his support with the public is falling quickly, the survey by pollster Ifop in weekly newspaper JDD showed.

His approval score dropped by 6 percentage points since the start of July after a 5-point fall during the previous month, leaving him with an overall rating of 45 percent - the lowest since he took office.

Hollande’s score was stuck at 18 percent, confirming him as the most unpopular French president since World War Two as unemployment remained stuck near a record high and France’s economic recovery lagged behind European peers.

Valls’ support level had declined most sharply among centre-right voters, with a 19 percent decline in one month, followed by far-left voters, with 13 percent, the poll showed.

 The prime minister has staked his credibility on a reform package designed to lower company labour costs in exchange for their commitment to hiring targets, but the trade-off has proven hard to achieve given opposition from unions and companies.