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Washington holds last 2016 primary as debate turns to terror fight

Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - 07:03
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Democrats in the US capital trooped to the polls Tuesday for the final primary of the marathon 2016 presidential campaign, but Washington's contest is a mere afterthought, with Hillary Clinton already the party's presumptive nominee.

[WASHINGTON] Democrats in the US capital trooped to the polls Tuesday for the final primary of the marathon 2016 presidential campaign, but Washington's contest is a mere afterthought, with Hillary Clinton already the party's presumptive nominee.

As the most explosive and controversial primary season in decades comes to a close, the nation's attention is elsewhere, with Mrs Clinton and her likely Republican White House opponent Donald Trump laying out dramatically different approaches for fighting terrorism in the wake of the Orlando gay club massacre.

While thousands gathered for vigils in US cities in memory of the 49 people killed, the two White House hopefuls scrambled to present their proposals for keeping Americans safe.

Mr Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, on Monday proposed stark changes to existing immigration rules, saying if elected he would "suspend" immigration from areas with a "proven history of terrorism."

He also suggested American Muslims were complicit in domestic attacks because they failed to "turn in the people who they know are bad." In her own national security speech, Mrs Clinton made no mention of Mr Trump as she called on Americans to reject political partisanship and "stand together" to defeat terrorism.

"Inflammatory, anti-Muslim rhetoric" is in itself a danger, she said.

Polls in Washington meanwhile opened at 7:00 am (1100 GMT), with voters choosing between Mrs Clinton - who last week reached the magic number of delegates needed to lock up the nomination - and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

While Mrs Clinton has called for uniting the party quickly in order to focus on the looming Mr Trump battle, Mr Sanders has refused to concede the race.

But he has exhibited a steady softening in recent days. The self-declared democratic socialist said over the weekend that he will meet with Mrs Clinton late Tuesday to discuss the Democratic Party platform ahead of the national convention next month in Philadelphia.

He also met Thursday with President Barack Obama in a public show of respect for Mr Sanders' insurgent campaign.

Mr Sanders emerged from the White House declaring his intent to work together with Mrs Clinton to defeat Mr Trump in November, a move that should go far to quell concerns of divisions within the party.

Mr Obama endorsed Mrs Clinton later that day, as did Vice President Joe Biden and a key senator, liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren.

Republicans in Washington held their party convention in March, with Mr Trump emerging as the top vote-getter.

Tuesday's vote wraps up a spectacular, deeply controversial and historic primary season that saw conservatives flock to a celebrity billionaire and political novice in Mr Trump, as liberals energised little-known Mr Sanders to mount a surprisingly strong challenge against one of the best known political figures in the nation.

Mr Sanders managed to tap into a deep well of anger among young voters disillusioned by the current political system and eager to see action taken to reduce income inequality, one of Mr Sanders' main goals.

Mrs Clinton ultimately prevailed, becoming the first female presumptive presidential nominee of any major US political party.

But Mr Sanders wants to have a greater say in reforming the party platform, by opening primaries to independent voters and curbing the role of bigwig "superdelegates."

Mrs Clinton is expected to do well in the District of Columbia, which has a large population of African-Americans, a constituency which has voted overwhelmingly for the former secretary of state this year.

AFP