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  • Bernie Sanders campaigning

    Bernie Sanders campaigning | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 May 2016

The Democrats will allow Sanders to have a big say in writing their party's platform this year.

The Democratic Party said on Monday it will give U.S. presidential contender Bernie Sanders a prominent say in writing its platform this year, a gesture that could ease tensions between Sanders' camp and party leaders, whom Sanders has accused of favoring rival Hillary Clinton.

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Sanders' tenacity appeared to be paying off: The U.S. senator from Vermont will be allowed to name five members to the 15-member committee that writes the platform at the Democratic Party's national convention in late July in Philadelphia even if he is not the nominee. Clinton will name six and chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will name four.

Both candidates announced their picks on Monday, a selection that is sure to raise eyebrows among centrist party members.

Sanders granted anti-capitalist Black critic Cornel West, US$15 minimum wage pioneer and representative Keith Ellison, Native American feminist Deborah Parker, famed environmentalist organizer Bill McKibben and outspoken Arab American leader James Zogby seats on the committee, who are likely to push the party platform to the left on their respective issues — including, most controversially, Israel-Palestine.

Clinton selected diplomat Wendy Sherman, think tank head Neera Tanden, Ohio lawmaker Alicia Reece, climate change lawyer Carol Browner, immigration reform champion Luis Gutierrez and union leader Paul Booth.

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Wasserman Schultz named three members who have not endorsed either candidate — former Black Caucus chair Barbara Lee, secretary of state candidate Howard Berman and philanthropist for gender equality Bonnie Schaefer — but also made Clinton endorser Elijah Cummings the head of the committee. Cummings told MSNBC on Monday that Sanders has a "pretty unusual" voice on the executive committee given that he will likely not win the nomination.

The party said in a statement the split was based on the results of state votes to date "in an effort to make this the most representative and inclusive process in history."

The Democratic Party's rules allow the chair to name all 15 members, suggesting that the party was trying to accommodate Sanders and his fervent supporters, who still pack rallies by the thousands as he campaigns in California, which will hold its primaries on June 7.

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