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Elections

Latvia, Malta and Slovakia add voices to polls for European Parliament

Latvia, Malta and Slovakia are voting on the penultimate day of the European elections. Over four days, about 388 million people from 28 countries are eligible to vote for the 751 members of the European Parliament.

Experts project record low turnout in Slovakia on Saturday, with only 15 percent of the 4.4 million people eligible to choose 13 of the parliament's 751 lawmakers expected to participate.

In Latvia, 1.5 million are eligible to pick eight lawmakers. The vote could preview October‘s national elections, when the opposition Harmony Centre alliance hopes to challenge the right-wing government.

In Malta (pictured), the 330,000-strong electorate can select a further six legislators, with a close contest expected between Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's Labour Party and the right-wing Nationalist Party.

Elections so far

Fringe parties expected to make gains in the vote for the European Parliament have so far seen mixed results. Of particular concern has been a rise in far-right parties. The groups' shared Euroskepticism could lead to further gridlock in Strasbourg, where the parliament meets.

In Ireland Friday, 41 candidates chased 11 seats, with local authority elections also held and a reported turnout of over 30 percent in some areas, but just 25 percent in Dublin. Resentment over EU-imposed limits on spending could give a boost to anti-austerity candidates from Ireland's Sinn Fein.

Polls opened Friday for the Czech Republic's 21 seats and close Saturday. The new ANO party is poised for victory ahead of national coalition partners, the centrist Social Democrats.

In the Netherlands, 37 percent of voters turned out Thursday. Exit polls predict a loss for Geert Wilders and his far-right euroskeptic Party of Freedom and a victory for centrist parties.

Britain's Euroskeptics, the UK Independence Party, found success in local polls Thursday and hope to replicate the numbers once parliamentary results become known. Just 36 percent of voters helped give the anti-EU, anti-immigration party 157 local-council seats so far - up from two. Centrist Labour gained 292 seats to 1,891, the ruling Conservatives down 201, and their junior coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, losing a massive 284 seats to 404 - largely as a result of the party's alliance with the Tories.

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 Jose Manuel Barroso as President of the European Commission.

Germany, France, Italy and the remaining EU countries are to vote Sunday. There are no official results anywhere in the EU until 23:00 in Brussels (2100 UTC) on Sunday.

mkg/dr (AFP, dpa)

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