World Bulletin / News Desk
Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives suffered a crushing defeat on Sunday in an election in Germany's most populous state, exit polls showed, a result which could embolden the left opposition to step up attacks on her European austerity policies.
The election in North Rhine-Westphalia, a western German state with a bigger population than the Netherlands and an economy the size of Turkey, was held 18 months before a national election in which Merkel is expected to fight for a third term.
She remains popular at home for her steady handling of the euro zone debt crisis, but the sheer scale of her party's defeat respresents a heavy blow that could tilt the German political landscape and leave her more vulnerable to domestic critics.
According to an exit poll for public broadcaster ARD, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) won 39 percent of the vote and will have enough to form a stable majority with the Greens, who scored 12 percent.
The two left-leaning parties had run a fragile minority government for the past two years under popular SPD leader Hannelore Kraft, whose decisive victory on Sunday could propel her to national prominence.
Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) saw their support plunge to just 26 percent, down from nearly 35 percent in 2010, and the worst result in the state since World War Two.
The Free Democrats (FDP), a pro-business party that rules in coalition with Merkel's conservatives at the federal level, looked to have made it back into the state assembly, in what many will see as a rebound for the party after a collapse in support in recent years.
The upstart Pirates, a new party that campaigns for internet freedom, continued their strong run at regional level, making it into their fourth straight state parliament, the exit polls showed.
Police say both suspects, who resided in Spanish cities of Valladolid and Murcia, were radicalized online
24 journalists stage strike to coincide with Palestinian Journalists Day
Over 99 percent of voters back Jan. 9 as Republika Srpska 'Statehood Day', fuelling fears of independence push from Bosnia
Council official calls for holding ‘consultations’ with view to appointing new heads of top state institutions
A measure making it more difficult for foreign workers to be employed won 58 percent of the vote in a referendum on Sunday in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, which borders Italy.
"Previous statements delivered by his adviser on Israel show a total abandonment of the two-state solution, international law and UN resolutions."
In northern Iraq, meanwhile, army braces for decisive push on ISIL-held city of Mosul
Government troops intensify operations to clear Boko Haram from northeastern Borno state
Congolese security forces battle unidentified militant group in Kasai-Central province
Hollande's visit comes just days after one by his conservative predecessor Sarkozy -- who is hoping to make a comeback as president, with a harsh line on migration a key part of his campaign.
Critics of the referendum have said that it is stoking ethnic tension and is bolstering separatist sentiment within the Bosnian Serb ministate
Hundreds of people in central Mudug region call on Indian government to release 119 Somalis accused of being pirates
Authorities in Azerbaijan are holding a referendum on September 26 over changes to the country's constitution
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.
"What Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counter-terrorism, it is barbarism," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told the 15-member council.
Bosnian Serbs have voted to maintain a Statehood Day holiday on January 9 in a controversial referendum held in defiance of a high-court ruling from Sarajevo.