PARIS (Reuters) - Close to two thirds of French people approve of President Francois Hollande’s actions in his first days in power, a poll showed on Saturday, giving him a strong foundation to face a parliamentary election and the challenges of the euro crisis.
Hollande took on the top job on May 15 at a time of stagnating economic growth and high unemployment in France and heightened anxiety over Greece’s ability to remain in the euro zone.
His early days saw a burst of activity, packing in trips to Berlin and Washington to defend his pro-growth stance on the euro zone and confirm his plan for an early withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan.
The self-styled “Mr Normal”, has also endeared himself to the French public at a time of economic hardship by cutting his salary by 30 percent and promising to take the train to official meetings rather than the presidential jet.
An Ifop survey conducted from May 18 to 25 found 61 percent of voters approved of his actions since taking power, the third strongest start recorded by a French president since the Second World War, and the highest for a left-wing president.
His score was just below that of Nicolas Sarkozy, who took power in 2007 with a rating of 65 percent, and Charles de Gaulle’s who scored 67 percent in 1959 and 61 percent in 1966.
Newly-appointed prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault scored 65 percent in the survey, making him the country’s most popular head of government since the Second World War.
The ratings put Hollande’s Socialists on a strong footing for parliamentary elections on June 10 and 17, when they look set to take seats from the a conservative UMP party split by infighting.
However, Hollande faces major challenges on the international stage with Germany staunchly opposed to his idea of issuing euro bonds to help boost the Europe’s flagging economy and Greece verging on an exit from the single currency.
A full audit of French finances is also due to be completed in late June and any unpleasant surprises could force him to make adjustments to his campaign spending promises.
Reporting by Vicky Buffery; Editing by Andrew Heavens