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Confidence in new French leaders at its lowest in 20 years: poll

French President Emmanuel Macron (4thL) and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (3rdL) pose for a family photo after the first cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 18, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s new president and prime minister have the lowest public confidence levels for French leaders starting their terms in at least the last 20 years, a poll found on Thursday.

Some 45 percent of voters said they trusted in centrist President Emmanuel Macron’s ability to tackle France’s problems, while 36 percent trusted his newly appointed prime minister, Edouard Philippe, a conservative, the Elabe poll showed.

“This result shows an unprecedented situation ... there is no grace period for the president,” Elabe said in a note. Macron, a 39-year-old former economy minister, said before his election this month that he expected no honeymoon.

The poll shows that despite his comfortable 66-34 percent victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the May 7 election, Macron still has to convince many voters of his ability to confront France’s social and economic problems.

By contrast, Socialist President Francois Hollande had confidence ratings of 58 percent when he took office in May 2012, conservative Nicolas Sarkozy 59 percent in 2007, Jacques Chirac 53 percent when re-elected in 2002 and 61 percent when he was first elected in 1995.

Past prime ministers’ ratings stood at between 50 and 59 percent at those same dates.

The poll of 999 people was conducted on May 16-17.

The survey’s findings are in line with a Harris Interactive poll on election day which found that 59 percent of Macron’s voters had chosen him primarily to stop Le Pen winning.

Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Adrian Croft