bernie sanders.jpg
Photograph: EPA/CJ GUNTHER

Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz won by wide margins in the Kansas and Maine party caucuses over front-runner Donald Trump Saturday, while Democratic dark horse Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton in two Midwestern state races.

But Trump won the southern state of Louisiana with 43 per cent of the vote, and was also leading in Kentucky, early results showed. Clinton also won the Democratic contest in Louisiana.

In Kansas, Cruz won 48 per cent of ballots to Trump's 23 per cent, party officials said. Florida Senator Marco Rubio had 17 per cent and Ohio Governor John Kasich had 11 per cent.

In Maine, Cruz secured 46 per cent to Trump’s 33 per cent. Ohio Governor John Kasich won 12 per cent and Florida Senator Marco Rubio took only 8 per cent, party officials said.

The elections in five states – four for Republicans and three for Democrats - were the first since Super Tuesday, in which a dozen states made their decisions and solidified the front-runner status of both Trump and Clinton in state intra-party contests to determine the nominees of the two main parties for the November election.

The Republican establishment has been struggling to prevent outsider Trump from seizing the conservative party's nomination, and Cruz’s victories Saturday had helped bolster his claims as the conservative alternative.

Poor showings for Rubio, meanwhile, looked to damage his claim as the establishment favourite despite endorsements by many prominent party lawmakers.

Cruz also received a psychological boost from a closely watched straw poll of conservative activists meeting outside Washington who named him their choice for president.

Trump has remained well ahead in polls for the Republican contests, though he has yet to amass enough delegates to put him entirely out of reach of his competitors.

This week both Mitt Romney and John McCain, the 2012 and 2008 Republican presidential nominees respectively, spoke forcefully against Trump being the nominee.

In the Democratic races, Clinton leads voter surveys over Sanders, and also leads in the tally of delegates needed to secure the nomination during a party convention in July.

Sanders won 68 per cent of the vote in Kansas caucuses to Clinton’s 32 per cent. In neighbouring Nebraska, he won 55 per cent to Clinton’s 45 per cent.

However in Louisiana, where there are more minority voters loyal to Clinton, she secured 70 per cent of the vote.

Latest news

Merkel calls for fewer EU regulations as nationalist sentiments grow

As voters in the Netherlands, France and Germany show increasing support for nationalist, euro-sceptic political movements ahead of this year's elections, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for limits on EU regulations.

French prosecutors transfer Fillon case to investigative judge

The French judiciary has opened a formal investigation in connection with presidential candidate Francois Fillon to examine whether the employment of his wife as a parliamentary employee was a sham, the country's financial prosecutors' office said Friday.

White House bars major news outlets from press briefing

Major news organizations, which were Friday blocked by the White House from attending an informal press briefing, condemned the move just hours after President Donald Trump described parts of the media as "the enemy of the people."

Report: German intelligence spied on BBC, other foreign journalists

Germany's intelligence agency monitored foreign journalists at the BBC, the New York Times and other news organizations from 1999 onwards across several countries, according to a Friday report from Der Spiegel magazine.

Classroom for Islamic religious education opened in Split

A classroom for Islamic religious education, whose equipment was financially assisted by city and county authorities, was opened in the coastal city of Split on Friday.

Ministry say no licences for export of military goods to Saudi Arabia issued in 2016

The Economy, Enterprise and Crafts Ministry on Friday issued a statement regarding media reports about export licences for military goods, stressing that in 2016 it did not issue any licences for the export of military goods to Saudi Arabia.

Croatia for preserving Bosnia's stability

Croatia on Friday supported the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), calling on its authorities to adopt decisions in institutions, after a request by BiH Presidency Bosniak member Bakir Izetbegovic to review a ruling which acquitted Serbia of genocide.

Mexico is not a migrant "waiting room" for US, interior minister says

Mexico will not accept undocumented immigrants from other countries whom the United States plans to deport, Mexico's interior minister said Friday.

Right-wing populist Wilders declines first Dutch election debate

Candidates from nine Dutch parties answered questions from journalists Friday at the first national radio debate of the election campaign, but the leading candidate

Bosnian Croat reps insist on channel airing programmes in Croatian

Being one of the constituent peoples, the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina are entitled to a broadcaster that will air programmes in their native language, HNS BiH official Ivan Vukoja said at a news conference in Mostar on Friday.

Same-sex couples in Slovenia can marry

A Slovenian law allowing same-sex couples to marry went into force on Friday and the first civil registrar ceremony, between two women, is to take place in Maribor on Saturday, the town's Vecer daily said.

Moody's changes Agrokor's outlook to negative

The Moody's rating agency on Friday changed its outlook for the Agrokor food retailer from stable to negative, affirming its rating of B3.