Voters in the final 21 EU countries are going to the polls on the last day of elections to choose European Parliament MPs. Opinion polls predict a surge for Euroskeptic parties, amid a low turnout.
Voting kicked off on Thursday in the Netherlands and Britain, and took place in five other countries over the next two days. Most of the near 400 million eligible voters will cast their ballots on Sunday, when 21 EU countries, including Germany, take to ballot stations.
Initial results are expected after 11 p.m. in Brussels (2100 UTC), and are expected to show a surge in support for far-right parties. Their shared Euroskepticism could lead to further gridlock in Strasbourg, where the parliament meets.
Their rise has been on the back of anti-immigrant and anti-EU issues, in the wake of the eurozone crisis and 26 million people being without work in the bloc.
In Britain, the anti-immigration UK Independence Party - UKIP - hopes its success in local polls on Thursday will be replicated in the EU vote. However, exit polls in The Netherlands show a surprise slump in support for the far-right Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders.
Anti-EU parties are expected to take first or second place on Sunday in Denmark, France and Italy. But exit polling in Latvia showed a strong result for pro-Europeans, bolstered by the ongoing Ukraine crisis.
Polling suggests the mainstream parties - the center-right conservatives and the center-left socialists - will hold about 70 per cent of seats in the next EU parliament, which will meet for the first time in early July to vote on the successor to Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission.
The European Parliament's coalition have agreed that the candidate backed by whichever bloc ultimately tops the poll - likely either the right-wing Jean-Claude Juncker or Social Democrat Martin Schulz - should be the nominee to succeed Barroso.
Voter turnout drops
Turnout by voters is expected to drop even further from the record low of 43 per cent in 2009.
"There is a legitimacy problem. But a win for the fringe parties won't derail or change the way the parliament works," the director of the Carnegie Europe think tank, Jan Techau, told news agency AFP.
"It will change a country's domestic political scene and possibly affect the way national leaders act within the EU," Techau said.
jr/mr (AFP, dpa)
Michael Schumacher could recover within three years, says a French doctor treating the former Formula One champion. The German driver is making progress, albeit slowly, 10 months after a devastating ski accident.
Wolfsburg and Gladbach will be looking to turn their poor Europa League form around on Thursday, particularly after weekend wins in the Bundesliga. But domestic success doesn't guarantee international results.