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French see far-left's Melenchon as Macron's strongest opponent - poll

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French see far-left's Melenchon as Macron's strongest opponent - poll

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PARIS (Reuters) – Far-leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon is seen by French voters as the strongest opponent of President Emmanuel Macron, a poll showed on Tuesday, highlighting the weakness of mainstream parties. With only 17 lawmakers, Melenchon’s ‘France Unbowed’ party can do little to block reforms in the 577-strong parliament, but they have managed to make their voice heard more than the divided conservatives and weakened Socialists. Forty-five percent of voters believe Melenchon’s party provides the strongest opposition to the centrist president, more than twice the figure for the conservative Republicans or the far-right National Front, the Ifop-Fiducial poll showed. The survey for Paris Match and Sud Radio confirmed Macron’s drop in popularity, with 46 percent of those surveyed saying they approved of his policies, down 10 points from July. Melenchon, an anti-Nato eurosceptic known for his fiery debating style, has called his supporters to take to the streets on Sept. 23 to protest Macron’s labour reforms, which include a cap on payouts for unfair dismissals, greater freedom to fire and giving companies more flexibility on pay and working hours. Melenchon’s very popularity could in the end help Macron, Ifop’s Frederic Dabi said. “He is very much on the protest front but not seen as an actual alternative (to Macron). That can be an opportunity for Emmanuel Macron, allowing him to create a vacuum around him and replace the left-right divide by a reform vs protest debate.”

(Reporting by Ingrid Melander and the Paris bureau; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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