Paris: International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has emerged as the most popular figure on the French political stage, according to two polls published on Tuesday which are likely to fuel speculation about his future.
Strauss-Kahn was deliberately coy in a radio interview last week when asked if he might leave the Washington-based IMF early and return to his native France in time to mount a challenge against President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 elections.
Sarkozy has seen his own ratings slide in recent months, while support for Strauss-Kahn, a veteran Socialist, has soared.
An Ifop survey for Paris Match said 76 percent of people had a positive opinion of the wily Strauss-Kahn, putting him at the top of their closely-watched league table, along with former president, Jacques Chirac, who has vanished into retirement.
Sarkozy, whose center-right UMP party faces a whitewash in regional elections next month, had support of just 38 percent -- a drop of 5 percentage points on January which left him languishing in 34th spot in the monthly popularity poll.
A separate survey by BVA showed 39 percent of respondents were satisfied with Sarkozy`s performance while 56 disapproved, his worst reading since August 2008.
When asked which politician they would like to see have more influence in France, Strauss-Kahn led the field by a full nine points, with 53 percent backing the former finance minister.