France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is facing an unprecedented crisis as a poll showed that fewer than 28% of voters had confidence in his leadership, and deputies in his own UMP party launched a revolt against his tax policies, a pillar of his administration.
Only two serving French presidents have polled lower, François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac, but both maintained the support of their party.
The deepening sense of gloom enveloping Sarkozy has come amid reports that — under pressure from his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy — the president might not stand for re-election in 2012.
The latest poll, in Le Figaro, follows the recent humiliating defeat for the UMP in the second round of regional elections, the final test of Sarkozy's popularity before the 2012 elections, which saw his party trounced by the Socialists and holding only one of France's 26 regions.
Sarkozy's troubles have forced him to reshuffle his cabinet and to beg UMP deputies not to campaign against a tax commitment he introduced in his first weeks in office guaranteeing that no one should pay more than 50% in direct taxes. Last week 13 MPs from the UMP sent a letter to Le Monde saying that they planned to draft a law to abolish the tax rule.
The problems Sarkozy faces in his party were underlined by a furious intervention from a former finance minister, Alain Lambert, who launched a vitriolic public attack on the president on Friday, denouncing his policies and warning that he was leading the French right “straight into the abyss”.