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Neo-Gaullists change name

The neo-Gaullist party founded by Jacques Chirac in 1976, the Rassemblement pour la Republique, is to change its name. It will in future be known simply as Le Rassemblement (the rally or the bringing-together).

The decision is part of an effort by the new president of the party, Philippe Seguin, to re-invigorate the party and also to return it to its Gaullist roots. "Le Rassemblement" was always the popular title for the original Gaullist party, Le Rassemblement du Peuple Francais, (RPF), which collapsed after the death of General de Gaulle. The change of name is a further sign that President Chirac is losing control of the RPR, which was created as a vehicle for his presidential ambitions. His standing in the party, and the wider alliance of centre and right parties, was severely damaged by his decision to call an early general election last May which was, against expectations, won by the Left. Mr Seguin's selection as party president, soon afterwards, was seen as the first step towards a presidential challenge of his own.