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Democrats set six debates for US presidential primary

AFP , Tuesday 5 May 2015
File Photo: Hillary Rodham Clinton, a 2016 Democratic presidential contender, speaks at the David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum, in New York April 29, 2015 (Photo: AP)
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Democratic presidential candidates, including frontrunner Hillary Clinton, will square off in six televised debates, beginning later this year, during their battle for the 2016 nomination, the party announced Tuesday.

The schedule will allow Democratic voters "multiple opportunities to size up the candidates" said congresswoman and Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

It will also, she promised, "give all Americans a chance to see a unified Democratic vision of economic opportunity and progress."

So far just two candidates -- Clinton and independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running as a Democrat -- have officially announced their candidacy for the nomination.

But former senators Jim Webb and Lincoln Chaffee, as well as former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, are reportedly mulling runs.

Four of the sanctioned debates, which will be sponsored by state Democratic parties and broadcast nationally and on digital platforms, will be held in the early caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Participants will be bound by a Democratic National Committee "exclusivity requirement" forbidding them from participating in non-sanctioned debates.

This is a way to restrict the debate schedule after the party's Republican opponents were widely criticized for holding an endless string of debates in 2012, with candidates beating up each other rather than focusing their attacks on President Barack Obama.

Republican officials plan nine sanctioned debates, from August 2015 in Ohio through to next February in Florida, with an option to expand to 12.

Details including dates and locations of debates for both parties will be released later.

One potential logistical hurdle for the Republicans will be how to fit all of their candidates onto the same stage for a free-flowing debate.

Six Republicans have already announced their campaigns and at least six more are seriously contemplating a run.

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