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France's Hollande approval rating below Le Pen's: poll

France's President Francois Hollande holds a news conference at the end of a European Union leaders summit in Brussels March 15, 2013. REUTERS/Laurent Dubrule

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande’s popularity has fallen to the lowest level since he was elected last May, taking his rating below that of far-right leader Marine Le Pen for the first time, a poll showed on Sunday.

Only 31 percent are satisfied with Hollande’s performance, eight points less than last month, as the Socialist president battles unemployment at a 13-year high and a stagnant economy, according to the poll carried out for newspaper Metro and TV channel LCI.

Hollande had started his presidency with a 59 percent approval rating in the monthly Clai-Metro-LCI poll carried out by OpinionWay.

Since then, he has been struggling with a promise to halt a rise in unemployment and his government has announced billions in spending cuts.

Hecklers on a tour to eastern France last week shouted: “What happened to the promises?” and “We’ve been waiting six months for a change!”

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici have as few supporters as Hollande, while Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who cultivates a tough-guy image, comes top of the government, with 58 percent satisfied with his performance.

Senior opposition politicians, including former conservative prime ministers Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe are more popular than Hollande and Ayrault. Far-right leader Le Pen was ahead by one point, the first time she has beaten Hollande during his time in government.

Nearly two thirds want a government reshuffle.

The poll was carried out March 9-14 among 1010 people.

Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Jason Webb