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Europeans vote

June 7, 2009

On the last day of voting across Europe, citizens from Germany, France and 17 other EU countries are going to the polls to choose their representatives for the European Parliament.

Chancellor Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel supports a strong EuropeImage: AP

In Germany, where polls opened at 8am on Sunday, voters get to elect 99 deputies to the European Parliament. Chancellor Angela Merkel urged voters to go to the polls and make their voices heard.

However, in an appearance at a rally in Heidelberg on Saturday, Merkel said that the lack of interest in the European Parliament elections may be because many Germans felt alienated from the European Union.

"To many citizens, the European institutions seem too remote. They often only find out about decisions made there when they are converted to national laws in Germany," said Merkel.

With its 99 seats, out of a total of 736, Germany has the largest contingent of deputies in the European Parliament.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berllusconi
Berlusconi hangs tough despite scandalImage: AP

The main contenders in Germany are Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats, who are both yoked into the final months of a coalition government ahead of a general election in September.

Other parties include the Bavarian Christian Social Union, the Free Democrats, Greens and Left Party. A total of 32 parties are vying for the European vote in Germany on a ballot sheet almost a meter long. But the vast majority of parties will not pass the five percent hurdle required to enter the European Parliament.

In Italy, voters went to polls on Saturday with a scandal concerning nude photos taken at Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's villa fresh in their minds. Berlusconi claimed the timing of the photographs was a smear campaign on the part of the Left.

"The electoral results will represent a terrible defeat for this Left, which has substituted an electoral programme -- which it doesn't have -- for calumny," Berlusconi said on Monday.

Low turnout?

Turnout throughout the EU is expected to be mixed, from a predicted low of 14 percent in Latvia to a high of 80 percent in Malta.

Polls in Slovakia also predicted a low voter turnout of around 14 percent, while in neighboring Czech Republic polls were showing an anticipated turnout of about 20 percent.

There is concern that low voter turnout might favor the extreme groups to the right and left. Yet most analysts say that it won't be enough to upset the current balance.

Voting in the 27 EU countries began Thursday in the Netherlands and Britain.

Editor: Kateri Jochum