Perot goes to court in effort to join presidential TV debate

 

THE Reform Party Presidential candidate, Mr Ross Perot, has asked a federal court to rule that his exclusion from the presidential debates is illegal. The court's decision may be given later this week.

The Commission on Presidential Debates recommended last week that only President Clinton and the Republican challenger, Mr Bob Dole, could take part in the two debates fixed for October 6th and 16th. The commission said that only candidates who had a "realistic" chance of being elected could participate in the debates and as Mr Perot was standing at only 5 per cent in the opinion polls, he did not qualify.

Mr Perot, who won 19 per cent of the votes in the last election and is getting $30 million in federal funding, has now accused the government of allowing the Commission to break the law in "tilting the election in favour of the Republican and Democratic candidates. Mr Perot has asked the court to gave a rapid ruling as "grave and irreparable harm" will be done if the debates take place before this case is decided.

Mr Clinton's campaign team was at first in favour of Mr Perot taking part in the debates but Mr Dole was strongly opposed. The Dole camp believes that electoral support for Mr Perot eats into his Republican vote.

Following the commission recommendation against Mr Perot and Mr Dole's opposition to him, the Clinton campaign was not prepared to risk the debates being dropped altogether and agreed to go ahead without the Reform Party challenger.

Mr Perot has now attacked the commission as a "bipartisan panel" on which only Democrats and Republicans are represented. He has pointed out that 76 per cent of Americans say he should be allowed to take part in the debates.

Mr Perot is also bitter about Mr Dole's opposition which he says will cost Republicans votes in the congressional elections as the Reform Party has yet to decide which congressional candidates to endorse. Mr Perot said Mr Dole had been "rude and arrogant in this in a way that I had never seen him act before. I guess he's desperate."

Mr Perot is also having problems in getting TV time to air his 30 minute "info mercials" setting out his policies. The major networks are reluctant to give him prime time and are only offering him "remnants" of air time, he said.