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Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff arrives at a reception with former prime minister Jean Chretien on April 27, 2011 in Toronto.

Paul Chiasson/Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Jean Chrétien is urging Liberals to support Toronto MP Bob Rae as interim leader of the decimated federal party.

Sources say the former prime minister has been phoning both defeated and re-elected MPs since the Liberal Party's historic defeat in Monday's election.

The once-mighty party was reduced to third place with only 34 MPs - and even leader Michael Ignatieff lost his seat.

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Mr. Chrétien has been promoting the idea that Mr. Rae should be interim leader for two years, giving the party time to pick itself up off the mat before going into a contest to choose a permanent successor to Mr. Ignatieff.

Mr. Rae appears to have considerable support among Liberal senators, most of whom were appointed by Mr. Chrétien and who now outnumber the tiny group of elected MPs.

However, some MPs say privately that a backlash is developing to the machinations to install Mr. Rae, a former NDP premier of Ontario who has mused since Monday about a possible merger with his old party.

They say Mr. Rae would have to vow not to open merger talks and not to run for the permanent leadership.

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