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Germany votes as history beckons for Merkel, and far-rightMerkel’s conservative bloc is on track to remain the largest group in Parliament, opinion polls indicated. AFP file

Germany votes as history beckons for Merkel, and far-right

Surveys indicate Merkel heading for historic fourth term24 Sep 2017 | 12:15 PM

BERLIN: Germans began voting in a national election on Sunday that is likely to see Chancellor Angela Merkel win a historic fourth term and a far-right party enter Parliament for the first time in more than half a century.

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Berlin, September 24

Germans began voting in a national election on Sunday that is likely to see Chancellor Angela Merkel win a historic fourth term and a far-right party enter Parliament for the first time in more than half a century.

Merkel’s conservative bloc is on track to remain the largest group in Parliament, opinion polls indicated, but a fracturing of the political landscape may well make it harder for her to form a ruling coalition than previously.

With as many as a third of Germans undecided in the run-up to the election, Merkel and her main rival, centre-left challenger Martin Schulz of the Social Democrats (SPD), urged them on Saturday to get out and vote.

“We want to boost your motivation so that we can still reach many, many people,” the Chancellor, 63, said in Berlin on Saturday before heading north to her constituency for a final round of campaigning.

In regional votes last year, Merkel’s conservatives suffered setbacks to the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which profited from resentment at her 2015 decision to leave German borders open to over one million migrants.

Those setbacks made Merkel, a pastor’s daughter who grew up in Communist East Germany, wonder if she should even run for re-election.

But with the migrant issue under control this year, she has bounced back and thrown herself into a punishing campaign schedule, presenting herself as an anchor of stability in an uncertain world.

Visibly happier, Merkel campaigned with renewed conviction: a resolve to re-tool the economy for the digital age, to head off future migrant crises, and to defend a Western order shaken by Donald Trump’s US election victory last November.

‘Gravediggers of democracy'

Both Merkel and Schulz worry that a low turnout could work in favour of smaller parties, especially the AfD, which is expected to enter the national parliament for the first time. On Friday, Schulz described the AfD as “gravediggers of democracy”.

An INSA poll published by Bild newspaper on Saturday suggested that support was slipping for Merkel’s conservatives, who dropped two percentage points to 34 per cent, and the SPD, down one point to 21 per cent — both now joined in an unwieldy “grand coalition”.

The anti-immigrant AfD rose two points to 13 per cent, putting it on course to be the third-largest party.

Should she win a fourth term, Merkel will join the late Helmut Kohl, her mentor who reunified Germany, and Konrad Adenauer, who led Germany’s rebirth after World War Two, as the only post-war chancellors to win four national elections.

The AfD’s expected entry into the national parliament is likely to herald an era of more robust debate in German politics—a departure from the steady, consensus-based approach that has marked the post-war period.

Coalition building after the election will be an arduous process that could take months as all potential partners are unsure whether they really want to share power with Merkel. All major parties refuse to work with the AfD.

Electoral arithmetic might push Merkel to renew her grand coalition with the SPD, or she might opt for a three-way alliance with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and environmentalist Greens.

Voting opened at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) and will continue until 6 p.m. (1600 GMT), when exit polls will give a first indication of the outcome. Reuters

New Mexico tremor kills 4, halts rescue operations

New Mexico tremor kills 4, halts rescue operations

24 Sep 2017 | 10:57 AM

MEXICO CITY: Four persons died as a result of a magnitude-6.1 aftershock that caused alarm in Mexico on Saturday, four days after a magnitude-7.1 earthquake left at least 305 dead.

On poll eve, Merkel and Schulz urge undecided Germans to vote

On poll eve, Merkel and Schulz urge undecided Germans to vote

24 Sep 2017 | 12:57 AM

BERLIN:German Chancellor Angela Merkel, poised to win a fourth term in Sunday’s election, urged supporters on Saturday to keep fighting for votes with a third of the electorate still undecided.

Six children burnt to death in Pakistan

24 Sep 2017 | 12:00 PM

ISLAMABAD: Six children were killed when a fire engulfed a house in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Sunday, police said.

Iran defies US warning, tests new medium-range missile

24 Sep 2017 | 12:57 AM

TEHRAN:Iran said today that it had successfully tested a new medium-range missile in defiance of warnings from Washington that such activities were grounds for abandoning their landmark nuclear deal.

Another earthquake shakes jittery Mexico

24 Sep 2017 | 12:57 AM

MEXICO CITY: A strong new earthquake shook Mexico on Saturday, causing new alarm in a country reeling from two yet-more-powerful quakes this month that have killed nearly 400 persons.

China to limit oil supplies to N Korea

24 Sep 2017 | 12:57 AM

BEIJING: China will restrict oil exports to and ban textile imports from North Korea, the commerce ministry said, as Beijing joined global efforts to enforce tighter UN Security Council sanctions on Pyongyang for its provocative nuclear and missile tests.

New Zealand election ends in stalemate

24 Sep 2017 | 12:57 AM

WELLINGTON: The New Zealand general election ended in stalemate with official results showing the minority New Zealand First party in a position to play kingmaker and in no hurry to decide which major party it will support. It could be at least another two weeks before the outcome is known after PM Bill English’s National party fell just short of confirming a fourth-term in power.

Uber, reviving old tactic, is backed by more than 500,000 in London row

23 Sep 2017 | 8:44 PM

SAN FRANCISCO/LONDON: Half a million people have signed an online petition in under 24 hours backing Uber's bid to stay on the roads of London, showing the company is turning to its tried-and-tested tactic of asking customers for help when it locks horns with regulators.

‘Bring home the bacon,’ Merkel tells voters on eve of poll

‘Bring home the bacon,’ Merkel tells voters on eve of poll

23 Sep 2017 | 8:36 PM

BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel and her rival Martin Schulz rallied voters on the eve of tomorrow’s vote, urging Germans to shun the first hard-right party expected to enter Parliament in force since the end of World War II.

NAFTA talks intensify; US set to unveil demands on key issues

NAFTA talks intensify; US set to unveil demands on key issues

23 Sep 2017 | 8:19 PM

OTTAWA: Talks to the North American Free Trade Agreement looked set to intensify on Saturday as US negotiators prepared for the first time to unveil their demands on some of the Trump administration’s most challenging issues.

British actor Colin Firth gets Italian citizenship after Brexit vote

British actor Colin Firth gets Italian citizenship after Brexit vote

23 Sep 2017 | 6:43 PM

ROME: British actor Colin Firth, who has often played the role of a quintessential Englishman in his many films, has become an Italian citizen, Italy's Interior Ministry said.

Small N.Korean quake likely natural, not nuclear test: Experts

23 Sep 2017 | 6:17 PM

BEIJING/SEOUL: A small earthquake near North Korea's nuclear test site on Saturday was probably not manmade, the nuclear proliferation watchdog and a South Korean official said, easing fears Pyongyang had exploded another nuclear bomb just weeks after its last one.

US Army probes fake evacuation orders sent to its personnel in S Korea

23 Sep 2017 | 6:05 PM

SEOUL: The US military said on Saturday it has opened an investigation into fake mobile phone alerts and social media messages advising US military personnel and their families to evacuate the Korean Peninsula.

Sharif’s wife discharged from London hospital after surgery

Sharif’s wife discharged from London hospital after surgery

23 Sep 2017 | 5:41 PM

LONDON: Pakistan’s ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz has been discharged from a London hospital after successful completion of her third surgery, according to the family.

China says North Korean quake ‘suspected explosion’

China says North Korean quake ‘suspected explosion’

23 Sep 2017 | 4:25 PM

BEIJING/SEOUL: China’s earthquake administration said on Saturday it had detected a magnitude 3.4 earthquake in North Korea that was a “suspected explosion”, raising fears the isolated state had conducted another nuclear bomb test weeks after its last one.

Pakistan test-fires anti-ship missile into Arabian Sea

Pakistan test-fires anti-ship missile into Arabian Sea

23 Sep 2017 | 4:24 PM

KARACHI: Pakistan said it conducted a successful test of the firing of an anti-ship missile from a Sea King helicopter in northern Arabian Sea on Saturday.

Trump, Kim are like 'children in a kindergarten': Russia

Trump, Kim are like 'children in a kindergarten': Russia

23 Sep 2017 | 2:52 PM

MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has likened the war of words between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to a kindergarten fight between children.

7 killed in blast at fireworks plant in China

23 Sep 2017 | 11:30 AM

BEIJING: A powerful explosion ripped through a fireworks plant in China’s east Jiangxi province, killing seven people, authorities said on Saturday.

Iran tests new missile defying US warnings

Iran tests new missile defying US warnings

23 Sep 2017 | 8:27 PM

TEHRAN: Iran said on Saturday that it had successfully tested a new medium-range missile in defiance of warnings from Washington that it was ready to ditch a landmark nuclear deal over the issue.

China follows UN sanctions with bans, limits on fuel products to North Korea

China follows UN sanctions with bans, limits on fuel products to North Korea

23 Sep 2017 | 10:41 AM

SHANGHAI: China said on Saturday it will ban exports of some petroleum products to North Korea, as well as imports of textiles from the isolated North, in line with a United Nations Security Council resolution passed after Pyongyang's latest nuclear test.

Anti-graft body freezes Sharifs’ a/cs

Anti-graft body freezes Sharifs’ a/cs

23 Sep 2017 | 2:25 AM

LAHORE:Ousted Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today suffered a major setback after an anti-graft body froze the bank accounts and seized the properties of him and his family members facing corruption and money-laundering charges in the Panama Papers scandal.

N Korea hints at H-bomb test in Pacific

N Korea hints at H-bomb test in Pacific

23 Sep 2017 | 2:25 AM

SEOUL/NEW YORK:North Korea today hinted at testing a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean over US President Donald Trump recent threat to destroy the reclusive country.

US seeks action on Myanmar; UN eyes $200 m for refugees

23 Sep 2017 | 2:25 AM

YANGON/DHAKA:The US wants Myanmar to take urgent action to end violence in Rakhine state, where a military offensive has created a crisis that could jeopardise its economic and political transition, a US official said on Friday.

Brexit: May sets out 2-yr transition plan

23 Sep 2017 | 2:25 AM

Florence: British Prime Minister Theresa May set out a plan on Friday to retain full access to the EU’s single market for two years after Brexit to try to reassure business and reset the tone of stalled negotiations with Brussels.

Richest woman Bettencourt dead

23 Sep 2017 | 2:25 AM

Paris: Liliane Bettencourt, the heiress to cosmetics firm L’Oreal, has died aged 94. With an estimated 2017 net worth of $40 billion, she was the world’s richest woman.

China plays Cupid to help youth get married

23 Sep 2017 | 2:25 AM

BEIJING:With over 100 million youngsters in China opting to remain single despite attaining marriageable age, the government has launched an ambitious blind date drive to encourage single youths to get hitched.

Come & face trial if you’re brave enough’: Zardari to Musharraf

Come & face trial if you’re brave enough’: Zardari to Musharraf

22 Sep 2017 | 9:30 PM

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday slammed Pervez Musharraf for accusing him of being responsible for the killing of his wife Benazir Bhutto, saying the former dictator should return and face courts if he is “courageous enough”.

Chinese plays Cupid to help youth get married

22 Sep 2017 | 9:11 PM

BEIJING: With over 100 million youngsters in China opting to remain single despite attaining marriageable age, the government has launched an ambitious blind date drive to encourage single youths to get hitched.

Kurds press historic independence vote despite regional fears

22 Sep 2017 | 8:46 PM

ERBIL: Iraqi Kurds are expected to vote on Monday to back an independence drive that neighbouring countries and Western powers fear could break up the country and stir broader regional ethnic and sectarian conflict.

Saudi cleric suspended over 'quarter-brain' women drivers quip

22 Sep 2017 | 8:13 PM

DUBAI: A Saudi cleric who said women should not drive because their brains shrink to a quarter the size of a man's when they go shopping has been banned from preaching, state television said.

Despite tough talk, Canada seen unlikely to walk away from NAFTA

Despite tough talk, Canada seen unlikely to walk away from NAFTA

22 Sep 2017 | 8:09 PM

OTTAWA: Despite Canada’s threats to walk away from NAFTA talks if necessary, its limited success in diversifying exports leaves the nation too reliant on US markets to play hardball, government insiders and trade experts say.

15 dead as migrant boat sinks off Turkey’s Black Sea coast

22 Sep 2017 | 8:07 PM

ISTANBUL: Fifteen people drowned and up to 15 more were missing on Friday after a fishing boat carrying migrants sunk off Turkey’s Black Sea coast, the coast guard said.

Germany expels 2nd Vietnamese diplomat over ‘kidnapping’

22 Sep 2017 | 8:06 PM

BERLIN: The German government is expelling a second Vietnamese diplomat suspected of involvement in what it called the kidnapping in Berlin of a former Vietnamese oil executive.

Pakistan anti-graft body freezes accounts of Sharif, family

Pakistan anti-graft body freezes accounts of Sharif, family

22 Sep 2017 | 8:03 PM

LAHORE: Ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday suffered a major setback after Pakistan’s anti-graft body froze the bank accounts and seized the properties of him and his family members facing corruption and money laundering charges in the Panama Papers scandal.

18-year-old man charged with London Tube terror attack

18-year-old man charged with London Tube terror attack

22 Sep 2017 | 7:57 PM

LONDON: An 18-year-old man was on Friday charged with attempted murder and causing an explosion in a terror attack on a London Underground train with a ‘bucket bomb’ last week which left 30 people injured.

In defiance to US, Iran unveils new missile during parade

In defiance to US, Iran unveils new missile during parade

22 Sep 2017 | 7:16 PM

TEHRAN: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has unveiled its latest ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 kilometres, about 1,250 miles capable of reaching much of the Middle East, including Israel.

What’s a ‘dotard’ anyway? Kim’s insult to Trump

What’s a ‘dotard’ anyway? Kim’s insult to Trump

22 Sep 2017 | 6:50 PM

LONDON: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has confused a lot of English-speakers — though this time not about what he intends with his nuclear programme.

Iraqi forces oust IS from northern town in drive on Hawija

Iraqi forces oust IS from northern town in drive on Hawija

22 Sep 2017 | 6:46 PM

SHARQAT: Iraqi forces achieved the first goal of a new offensive against the Islamic State group on just its second day today, penetrating the northern town of Sharqat.

32 dead as Hurricane Maria lashes Puerto Rico, Caribbean islands

32 dead as Hurricane Maria lashes Puerto Rico, Caribbean islands

22 Sep 2017 | 6:43 PM

SAN JUAN: Hurricane Maria churned towards the Turks and Caicos on Friday after lashing Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands with winds and rain that destroyed homes, flooded streets, crippled economies and left at least 32 people dead.

N.Korea may consider H-bomb test in Pacific, Kim calls Trump 'deranged'

N.Korea may consider H-bomb test in Pacific, Kim calls Trump 'deranged'

22 Sep 2017 | 8:32 PM

SEOUL/NEW YORK: North Korea said on Friday it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean after President Donald Trump vowed to destroy the reclusive country, with leader Kim Jong Un promising to make Trump pay dearly for his threats.

Nikki Haley denies designs on Secretary of State job

Nikki Haley denies designs on Secretary of State job

22 Sep 2017 | 8:02 PM

NEW YORK: US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley tried to scotch speculation that she is gunning to become Secretary of State, saying she is not interested in the role.

Uber loses licence to operate in London

Uber loses licence to operate in London

22 Sep 2017 | 7:20 PM

LONDON: London transport authorities announced on Friday they would not renew Uber's licence to operate in the city when it expires on September 30 for safety reasons, although it has three weeks to appeal.

Syrian activist, daughter found dead in Turkey

Syrian activist, daughter found dead in Turkey

22 Sep 2017 | 7:21 PM

ANKARA: Turkey’s state-run news agency says a Syrian activist and her journalist daughter have been killed in their home in Istanbul.

Pakistan military started ‘genocide’ of 1971,  says Sheikh Hasina

Pakistan military started ‘genocide’ of 1971, says Sheikh Hasina

22 Sep 2017 | 10:30 PM

UNITED NATIONS: Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina has hit out at Pakistan, saying its Army launched a “heinous” military operation in 1971 which triggered a “genocide”.

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