Immigrant children top French popularity poll

The latest popularity contest by IFOP, published by the Journal du Dimanche, also confirms the low esteem in which France holds its mainstream politicians.

The highest place reached by an active political figure was 38th - achieved by Olivier Besancenot, 30, a boyish, Trotskyist postman. Although his party - the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire - commands only 2 per cent of the vote, M. Besancenot's clean-cut good-looks and plain talking have made him a fravourite among left-leaning young people. Always presented as a postman and part-time politician, he is actually a middle class boy from an academic family who turned postman to get working-class credentials.

The vote - a six-monthly exercise in national navel-gazing - may be somewhat misleading. The poll was taken in June and July - before Zidane announced that he would end his retirement from international football and return to help a struggling France qualify for the World Cup next summer.

President Jacques Chirac only just scraped into the top 50 at 47th place. His ambitious former protégé turned bitter rival, the Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, was a sobering 48th.

Noah, 45, French-born, with a father from Cameroun, is still captain of France's Davis Cup team but created a new career as a pop singer 14 years ago. He has been rising in popularity in recent polls, partly because of his charitable work for children and for the developing world.

With Zidane, whose parents are Algerian, in second place, the two top spots in this summer's chart were occupied by the children of immigrants. Jean-Marie Le Pen, the anti-immigrant politician, did not figure.

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