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France’s Hollande overtakes Sarkozy in popularity poll

French President Francois Hollande has become more popular than his predecessor, conservative leader Nicolas Sarkozy, for the first time since July 2012, an Ifop-Fiducial opinion poll for Paris Match magazine and Sud-Radio showed on Tuesday.

Some 45 per cent of those polled had a “good opinion” of the Socialist president in December, up 14 points in a month, while Sarkozy lost 2 points to 35 per cent of good opinions.

“It is a turning point in their public rivalry,” said Frederic Dabi, deputy head of the Ifop polling institute.

Several opinion polls showed a spectacular revival in Hollande’s dismal popularity ratings since the November 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, with the socialist leader praised for his handling of the country’s deadliest attacks since World War II.

Hollande, long the most unpopular French President in post-war history, can also claim credit for a successful climate deal agreed in Paris last week, and his Socialist party has managed to retain power in five of 13 regions in Sunday’s regional elections, more than previously expected.

However, an other opinion poll – TNS Sofres-OnePoint for Le Figaro, LCI et RTL – found Hollande would fail to qualify for the run-offs of French presidential elections in 2017, coming in third with 19 per cent of voting intentions, compared with 26 per cent for far-right leader Marine Le Pen and 24 per cent for Sarkozy.

Under the French system, only the first two candidates in the first round of presidential elections can reach the second round. Sarkozy lost to Hollande in the 2012 elections.

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