Sarkozy hopes end in sight for French pension protest

With thousands of families heading off for school half-term holidays, and lawmakers exected to give the pensions bill their formal final approval on Wednesday, Sarkozy hopes the mass protest movement will die away.

But, with today newspaper opinion polls showing the embattled president more unpopular than ever, trade unions and student bodies have declared at least two more days of action, and strikes continue in the key fuel sector.

A poll by the IFOP institute for the weekly JDD found Sarkozy's approval rating had dropped below 30 per cent for the first time, clouding his hopes that passing the pensions law could kick start a political comeback.

French university students are planning to march on Tuesday to defend the right to retire at 60, and trade unions have called their campaign's seventh one-day nationwide strike and day of rallies on Thursday.

Meanwhile, one petrol station in four around the country has run dry, amid strikes at refineries and blockades of fuel depots by strikers playing a cat and mouse game with riot police sent to disperse them.

Government supporters were putting a brave face on things, however, betting that on Wednesday, when the National Assembly rubber stamps a pensions law already approved by both houses of parliament, the movement will fizzle.

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