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The BBC's Philippa Thomas
looks at the crisis in the Reform Party
 real 56k

The BBC's Johnny Dymond
examines whether the party is mortally wounded
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Thursday, 10 August, 2000, 20:25 GMT 21:25 UK
Reform Party showdown looms
Buchanan supporters
Buchanan supporters chant 'Go Pat, go' at a Long Beach rally
America's deeply-divided Reform Party begins its convention on Thursday, to choose a candidate for the presidential election in November.

Tension is running high between supporters of Pat Buchanan, the right-wing former Republican, and those of a virtual unknown, John Hagelin - both of whom are vying to run for the White House.

At a meeting earlier this week in Long Beach, California, where the four-day convention is to take place, rival delegates screamed and jostled each other as they battled over the nomination, and they have now split into two camps.

Pat Buchanan
Mr Buchanan's opponents accuse him of stealing their party
The party was the third force in American politics in the last decade, but its current level of support is little more than one-fifth of the 19% that it secured in the 1992 election under its founder, the multi-millionaire businessman, Ross Perot.

The BBC's Johnny Dymond in Washington says Mr Buchanan is making a strong challenge, but that his opposition to gay rights and abortion has divided the party and reduced its appeal.

"I think the bottom line is that Pat Buchanan is attempting to turn the Reform Party into a social conservative fundraising organisation," party secretary Jim Mangia told the BBC.

Support from openly racist parties has further antagonised some of Mr Buchanan's opponents.

No threat

They have vowed to fight his takeover attempt by holding a convention of their own.

I think that the Reform Party at the moment is totally irrelevant. They can't unite themselves

Brookings Insitution analyst Steven Hess
They also say they will appeal to the Federal Election Commission in an attempt to prevent the right-wing firebrand from claiming the $12.5m in federal election aid which whoever wins the nomination will receive.

This is the second serious crisis to hit the Reform Party in its short history.

In February this year, wrestler-turned-Minnesota-governor Jesse Ventura quit, accusing it of being dysfunctional and of lurching to the right.

The party - which started out as a mix of conservatives, leftists and libertarians - may have had an impact in the 1990s, but many analysts now say it no longer poses a threat.

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See also:

09 Aug 00 | Americas
US Reform Party faces split
10 Aug 00 | US Elections
Analysis: Reform Party pulled right
25 Oct 99 | Americas
Buchanan bids for presidency
06 Oct 99 | Americas
Pat Buchanan runs for the right
12 Feb 00 | Americas
Fists fly as Ventura ally dumped
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