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Leftwingers march in Paris and Marseille against French government austerity

Streets fill with protesters after Prime Minister Manuel Valls announces spending cuts

Left-wing parties and trade unions took to the streets of Paris and Marseille on Saturday to protest against austerity measures by French President Francois Hollande’s government.

New Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who replaced Jean-Marc Ayrault after the Socialists’ appalling showing in municipal elections last month, announced tax and spending cuts on Tuesday.

Mr Valls said that he would bring France’s annual budget deficit in line with EU targets by 2015.

But tens of thousands of people marched through the French capital on Saturday to show their disapproval, brandishing signs with slogans such as: “When you are leftist you support workers.”

Greek Syriza coalition politician Alexis Tsipras marched alongside Pierre Laurent of the French Communist party and the Left Party’s Jean-Luc Melenchon.

French police claimed that only about 25,000 joined the protest, but the French Communist Party said the had turnout exceeded 100,000.

A parallel march was held in Marseille.

Mr Hollande announced a so-called “responsibility pact” earlier this year, which aimed to boost the profitability of French companies by cutting their taxes by €30 billion (£25bn).

“A €30bn gift to big business is something monstrous in the period of austerity we live in,” Left Party leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said before the march.

The pact includes huge cuts to healthcare, local authorities and family subsidies in order to finance tax breaks for businesses.

Facing anger from his left flank and with unemployment hovering around 10 per cent, Mr Hollande has seen his popularity plummet.

His approval rating has hit a new low of 18 per cent, an opinion poll showed yesterday, despite, or perhaps because of, his recent decision to reshuffle and streamline his government, steering it sharply right.

“Fiscal discipline and austerity, imposed by the European Commission, Francois Hollande and the government to satisfy financial markets, feeds an unhealthy climate,” union representatives and politicians warned in a letter published on Wednesday on the website of newspaper Humanité, calling on people to join the march.

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