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France’s Hollande struggles to regain popularity

PARIS — President Francois Hollande has suffered a dramatic decline in popularity during his first six months as leader of France, failing to convince much of the country that his Socialist government is capable of firm leadership to overcome a persistent economic slump.

Recent opinion polls have shown Hollande sinking nearly 20 points in approval ratings, to about 40 percent, with respondents from across the political spectrum expressing disappointment as unemployment rises, factories close, and growth remains elusive.

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Hollande’s friends and supporters have publicly urged the president to explain more clearly how his decisions fit into a coherent plan for restoring France’s economic health.

In many ways, Hollande’s fall from postelection grace reflects the simple fact that he is in charge as Europe’s debt crisis forces France and other countries to raise taxes and cut back on cherished welfare expenditures. But French analysts say it also stems from Hollande’s tendency to keep options open as long as possible before making decisions, creating an impression that his path is unclear, and from a series of missteps.

‘‘I understand the worries of the people and the doubts they may express about the ability of politicians to meet the challenge,’’ Hollande told a news conference Tuesday.

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