The Democratic Convention: Week of speeches and poster-waving - The Democrats meet in New York this week to endorse the man they are coming to believe can oust George Bush from the White House

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The Independent Online
NEW YORK (Agencies) - The Democratic convention will begin and end with speeches. The chairwoman, Governor Ann Richards of Texas, known for her sharp wit, will open proceedings today. She will be followed by Senator Bill Bradley, a former basketball star from New Jersey who had been mentioned as a possible vice-presidential choice. The other two keynote speakers, who add geographic, sexual and ethnic balance, are Georgia's Governor Zell Miller and a black civil-rights leader, Barbara Jordan, from Texas.

Tomorrow the convention considers the political platform drafted by committee. There will be more speeches that night and an appearance by the last Democrat to occupy the White House, Jimmy Carter. On Wednesday, Governor Mario Cuomo of New York, the darling of Democratic liberals and a skilled orator, will formally nominate Mr Clinton and start the traditional poster-waving, band-accompanied demonstration. The choice of Mr Cuomo came as something of a surprise last week because he had said earlier he wanted no major role and that prime speaking slots at the convention should be given to lesser-known Democrats.

Mr Cuomo's keynote address to the 1984 Democratic convention helped to propel him to national prominence.

The moderate Clinton and liberal Cuomo have a history of stormy relations, but have recently been saying nice things about each other. Mr Clinton has said Mr Cuomo would make an excellent Supreme Court nominee.

After Mr Cuomo's nomination speech and the seconding, the preordained roll-call voting will take place. Mr Clinton has little to worry about: more than 2,500 of the 4,200 delegates are pledged to him and the party platform has been crafted to his specifications.

Another attraction for the delegates on Wednesday will be an appearance by Nelson Mandela, it was announced yesterday. Mr Mandela's appearance at the convention will be seen as a a pointed rebuke to President George Bush for not putting pressure on South Africa's government to help end their dispute over violence in black townships.

On Thursday night Mr Clinton and his running-mate, Senator Al Gore of Tennessee, will accept their nominations and launch their campaign with nationally televised speeches.

The delegates represent Democratic Party organisations in the 50 states and Washington DC plus territories and protectorates. More than 500 foreign dignitaries will be attending the convention, including delegations from Russia and other former Soviet republics.

They will be watched by about 15,000 reporters.

New York City is spending dollars 20.8m (pounds 10.9m) to host the event, but expects millions more to be pumped into its struggling economy by free-spending delegates.

Four years ago, before the 1988 presidential election, the Democrats dropped dollars 70m into the lap of Atlanta, Georgia.