It’s Hillary vs Trump as US heads into election

Republican candidate Donald Trump is shaking up US presidential politics. Photo: EPA

No third-party candidate has enough support to merit inclusion in the first US presidential debate, leaving Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump a clear field to vie for support, organizers said Friday.

The September 26 presidential debate, to be televised nationally, comes as the race tightens between Clinton and Trump ahead of the November 8 election.

For Myanmar, the US election is likely to have implications as President Barack Obama makes way for a new president. Obama has made it a point to engage with Myanmar during its democratic transition and was the first US president to visit the country. Washington is in the process of dismantling the final economic sanctions on Myanmar in recognition of the National League for Democracy party’s 2015 election win and the positive changes under State counselor Aung San SuuKyi’s leadership.

As US Secretary of State, Clinton was instrumental in Washington’s engagement with the TheinSein government, which began the opening up of Myanmar and sparked the thaw in relations.

Given the high stakes, many people in Myanmar, and around the world, will be following the US election with interest and, judging by comments in the media and social media, some concern.

The nonpartisan, non-profit commission running the three US presidential debates and a vice-presidential debate announced Friday that Clinton and Trump and their running mates had passed the first hurdle.

Two presidential contenders outside the mainstream parties, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein, met other criteria but failed to garner enough support in opinion polls, the Commission on Presidential Debates said.

The CPD requires a candidate to have at least 15 percent support of the national electorate, as measured in survey polls.

According to the average of five recently conducted national polls, Clinton had 43 percent and Trump 40.4 percent, while Johnson had 8.4 percent and Stein 3.2 percent.

Only Clinton and her running mate, Tim Kaine, and Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, qualify to participate in the September 26 presidential debate and the October 4 vice-presidential debate, the commission said.

Johnson hoped to meet the 15 percent mark to gain broader exposure through the debate, expected to draw one of the year's largest television audiences.

In 2012, a solid 46.2 million US households tuned into the first debate between Democratic President Barack Obama, seeking re-election, and Republican rival Mitt Romney, according to Nielsen data.

With the presence this time of real-estate tycoon Trump, a former reality TV star, that number could be exceeded.

Johnson said his exclusion from the first debate reflects the bias of a private organization created by the Republican and Democratic parties to take control of the nationally televised debates.

"The CPD may scoff at a ticket that enjoys 'only' nine or 10 percent in their hand-selected polls, but even nine percent represents 13 million voters, more than the total population of Ohio and most other states," Johnson said in a statement.

"Yet, the Republicans and Democrats are choosing to silence the candidate preferred by those millions of Americans."

The CPD said it would reapply the criteria to all candidates in advance of the second and third presidential debates, on October 9 and October 19.

(AFP – additional reporting from Mizzima)

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