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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 June, 2004, 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK
Millions vote for EU parliament
A Greek Cypriot woman emerges from a polling booth in Nicosia
MEPs are now elected by the world's second-largest democracy
Tens of millions of people have been going to the polls to elect a new parliament for the European Union.

Last month's accession of 10 new EU states means there are 350 million eligible to vote in what has become the largest democracy outside India.

But correspondents say the focus in several nations is on domestic matters rather than the Europe-wide issues that will be addressed by the EU parliament.

Turnout is also said to be low at polls from the Arctic to the Mediterranean.

Polling has already ended in most of the 25 EU countries. The first partial results will be made public when all voting ends across Europe at 2000 GMT.

The BBC's Europe correspondent, Chris Morris, says politicians will claim success if turnout tops 50%.

It is Malta's first opportunity to vote and it's something I will not miss - small as our voice is, I want the people I trust representing Malta there!
John Vassallo, St Julian's, Malta

But with the European parliament still lacking a high profile in many areas, some of the lowest voter figures are expected from the new EU members, he reports from Brussels.

Close attention will also be paid to the support won by right-wing and nationalist parties, our correspondent says.

Beach v ballot box

Voters in 19 of the 25 EU nations have been casting ballots on Sunday, the fourth day of elections which have already seen the other six countries complete polling for their share of the 732 MEPs.

Voters in Brussels tell us who they voted for in the European elections and why

Reports from across the continent say sunny weather has been drawing people out of their homes - but not necessarily to the polling stations.

The Associated Press news agency reported from Athens that it seemed most Greeks preferred to spend the day on the beach, with initial surveys showing that few people had voted by noon.

In Warsaw, the BBC's Emma-Jane Kirby says Poles were heading for the parks instead of the ballot box in a country where turnout is expected to be extremely low.

She says the focus is on forthcoming domestic general elections with Prime Minister Marek Belka fighting for his political life.

In the first four hours of voting, just 5.8% of Poles turned out to vote in the elections, the state electoral commission said.

Maltese commitment

In Germany, national issues are also to the fore, with many people wanting to use the election to pass judgement on the government, according to the BBC's Ray Furlong in Berlin.

Thursday: The Netherlands, UK
Friday: Ireland
Friday & Saturday: Czech Rep
Saturday: Latvia and Malta
Saturday & Sunday: Italy
Sunday: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden

He says the campaign has seen very little debate about Europe-wide issues.

Those who cast their votes in Britain, Italy and Greece may also using the election to show their opinions on their national governments, correspondents say.

The highest turnout is expected from the least populous EU member.

Malta, which only joined the EU on 1 May, may see more than 80% of its electorate vote, reports suggest.

EPP-ED: European People's Party-European Democrats (Centre-Right)
PES: Party of European Socialists (Socialists)
ELDR: European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party (Liberals)
EUL/NGL: European United Left / Nordic Green Left (Far Left)
Greens/EFA: Greens / European Free Alliance (Greens and regionalists / nationalists)
IND: Independents, not attached to any group
UEN: Union for Europe of the Nations (Right wing / Gaullists)
EDD: Europe of Democracies and Diversities (Eurosceptics)

The BBC's Philippa Young
"European Parliament officials say the turnout has been a record low"

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