PARIS - France's President, Nicolas Sarkozy, is facing an unprecedented crisis as a new poll yesterday showed fewer than 28 per cent 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, Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac, but both maintained the support of their party.

The deepening sense of gloom enveloping Sarkozy has come amid speculation that the President might not stand for re-election in 2012.

The latest poll, in Le Figaro, follows the humiliating defeat for the UMP in the second round of regional 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 guaranteeing that no one should pay more than 50 per cent in direct taxes.

Last week 13 MPs from the UMP sent a letter to Le Monde saying that they planned to draft a new law to abolish the tax rule.

A former finance minister, Alain Lambert, launched a vitriolic public attack, denouncing Sarkozy's policies of the last three years and warning that he was leading the French right "straight into the abyss".

Describing Sarkozy as being "in no position to deliver a majority" in 2012, he called on senior members of the party to "consider all eventualities".

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