France's Hollande would lose election vs Sarkozy: poll

PARIS (REUTERS) - French President Francois Hollande would be beaten at the polls by both his centre-right predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy and far-right rival Marine Le Pen if he ran for re-election this week, an opinion survey showed on Tuesday.

Hollande's popularity has plummeted to record lows since he came to power two years ago, with voters increasingly frustrated about his failure to kickstart economic growth and bring down an unemployment rate stuck above 10 per cent.

The survey by pollster OpinionWay showed that Hollande, whose term ends in 2017, would be knocked out in the first round of a two-round presidential election with 19 per cent of votes versus 29 per cent for Sarkozy and 25 per cent for Le Pen.

In a run-off next Sunday between Sarkozy and National Front party chief Le Pen, the former president would win by 67 per cent versus 33 per cent for Le Pen, the poll showed.

If Hollande - who had an approval score of 17 per cent in the poll - made it to the second round to face the anti-EU, anti-immigrant Le Pen in a runoff, he would win with 54 per cent of votes versus 46 per cent. "It's the first time that a president is shown to be in such deep trouble in a poll, and that the National Front is so strongly positioned for the first round (of the presidential race) in the middle of a term," OpinionWay analyst Bruno Jeanbart said.

Hollande's Socialist Party suffered a rout in local elections last month, losing ground to both the centre-right UMP opposition party and Marine Le Pen's National Front Party, which is slated to make strong gains in upcoming European elections.

The poor showing prompted Hollande to reshuffle his cabinet and appoint Manuel Valls as his new prime minister. But while Valls' popularity score has since improved Hollande's remains mired below 20 per cent.