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Page last updated at 19:20 GMT, Sunday, 7 June 2009 20:20 UK

EU nations await huge vote result

EU election ballots are counted in Germany
Turnout in EU elections has fallen every time

The results of the largest election in the history of the European Union are due within an hour, as voting draws to a close after four days.

Nineteen EU countries voted on Sunday, with eight others having voted in the past few days.

All 736 parliament seats are up for grabs. Provisional figures suggest the lowest turnout on record, at 43.01%.

BBC correspondents say the parliament in Brussels is buzzing with activity, with first results due at 2000 GMT.

Party groupings have quite literally set out their stalls along the main walkway, alongside mini TV studios - some rather grand and gleaming, others little more than a stool and camera, says the BBC's Europe editor Mark Mardell.

Protest vote

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero led EU leaders and officials in casting their ballots on Sunday.

EU PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS
EU election results
Thursday: UK and Netherlands
Friday: Ireland, Czech Republic
Saturday: Latvia, Cyprus, Malta, Slovakia, Italy and Czech Republic
Sunday: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden

Results from 2000 GMT Sunday

Mr Sarkozy and France's first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy voted at a polling station in Paris.

Voting in Madrid alongside his wife, Mr Zapatero sounded optimistic: "On this occasion, I vote for the European project. That great project that is Europe which has given us a lot of stability. And at this point it has a future full of opportunities for all Spaniards."

But analysts say the global economic crisis could influence people's vote, and that disenchantment may be reflected in greater support for far-right parties.

Voters are choosing representatives mainly from their own national parties, many of which then join EU-wide groupings with similarly-minded parties from other countries.

The largest grouping has for the last five years been the centre-right EPP (288 seats out of a current 785), followed by the centre-left PES (216) and the liberal ALDE (100).

Opinion polls before the election began suggested fewer than half the 375 million electorate would vote.

Mark Mardell
In Britain it's Brown, but each country will have its own story to tell. Here's what to look for...
Mark Mardell
BBC Europe editor

Beaches were packed as many Greeks opted to skip the ballot box altogether.

But some were determined to cast a protest vote against the government: "[I will] both vote and also go to the beach, both are possible, so that I can do my civic duty and also get a suntan," one voter told Reuters news agency.

Greece is one of the countries where voters are expected to give the government a bloody nose. Others include the UK, Spain, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Treaty test

Provisional figures released suggested turnout was at an all-time low, both throughout the EU and in some individual countries, including France (40.5%) and Germany (42.2%).

In Malta, on the other hand, it was expected to near 80%, and in Brussels, there were long queues outside a polling station on the Grand Place on Sunday.

Turnout has fallen at each European election in the last 30 years, from nearly 62% in 1979 to 45.47% in 2004.

Saturday also saw voting in crisis-hit Latvia and in Cyprus, where only the Greek-speaking south of the island was able to vote.

In Italy, which holds a second day of polling on Sunday, the election coincides with a series of scandals around Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's private life.

Britain voted on Thursday. In local elections held in some areas at the same time, support for the governing Labour Party collapsed, and many analysts are predicting a similar result in the European election.

BBC COVERAGE HIGHLIGHTS
full results for the UK and the rest of Europe from 2100 BST (2000 GMT) on Sunday
Live text commentary telling the story as results come in
Streaming video of the BBC election night TV programme with David Dimbleby

The votes were held following weeks of political turmoil and public anger over MPs' expenses claims.

In Ireland, where the elections were held on Friday, the vote is seen as a key test ahead of a second referendum on the EU's controversial Lisbon Treaty, expected in October.

Irish voters rejected the treaty last year.

The European Commission has asked for an explanation from Dutch officials, who broke EU rules by releasing partial results early.

The results suggest that Geert Wilders' far-right Freedom Party (PVV) has come second in the polls and will get four of the 25 Dutch seats in the assembly.

Mr Wilders is facing prosecution over anti-Islamic statements.


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MEP Seats

  Votes MEPs
Party % +/- % Total +/-
EPP 33.4 -1.4 264 -18
Socialists 23.2 -4.1 183 -26
Liberal 11.0 +1.6 84 +5
Green 7.4 +1.3 50 +9
Left 5.3 -0.6 34 -2
UEN 3.4 +1.6 28 +2
Ind/Dem 2.7 -1.8 21 -15
No Group 13.6 +3.4 72 +3.4
0 of 27 countries declared.

UK Total MEP Seats

Party Votes MEPs
% +/- % Total +/-
CON 27.7 1.0 *26 1
UKIP 16.5 0.3 13 1
LAB 15.7 -6.9 13 -5
LD 13.7 -1.2 11 1
GRN 8.6 2.4 2 0
BNP 6.2 1.3 2 2
SNP 2.1 0.7 2 0
PC 0.8 -0.1 1 0
OTH 8.5 2.4 0 0
SF 1 0
DUP 1 0
72 of 72 seats declared. Vote share figures exclude Northern Ireland as it has a separate electoral system to the rest of the UK
* Includes UCUNF MEP elected in Northern Ireland
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VIEWPOINTS
BACKGROUND
HAVE YOUR SAY
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Pol Nyup Rasmussen, Graham Watson, Wilfried Martens Bloc presidents on election results

Tristana Moore How people voted across Europe

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski Polish success for ruling party

France's Finance Minister Christine Lagarde French vote boosts Sarkozy's UMP

Steve Rosenberg Berlin voters celebrate at party




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