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Prost and politics

SUNDAY's elections for the French National Assembly could have a dramatic effect on the fortunes of Alain Prost's FormulaŹ1 team. President Jacques Chirac - a Prost supporter - remains in office. He has a seven-year term of office and so will not face re-election until May 2002 but his position has been weakened considerably by the victory of the Socialist Party under Lionel Jospin. Chirac now faces five years of cohabitation with a Socialist government which, in effect, makes him a lame duck president. This will make it much more difficult for him to support Prost.

Prost is unlikely to get much support from the Socialists and he has lost the political clout of right-wing ministers such as Jacques Toubon (the Justice Minister who has lost his seat in the National Assembly) and Sports Minister Guy Drut - both of whom have played important roles in helping Alain put his team together in the last 18 months.

The election result is also likely to have serious effects on the French business community. Share prices dived by 8% in the days after the first round of the election last weekend and remained jittery throughout the week. On Friday morning the French CAC-40 share index dropped 1.5% in the first 10 minutes of trading. Worse is expected today with some analysts predicting that 10% will be wiped off share values when the markets open.

The obstacles may not be insurmountable but they will make life more difficult for Prost who is in the process of moving the team from Magny-Cours to Versailles and increasing the team's personnel by 30%, from the current 92 staff to around 130.

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