European elections reach their height on "Super Sunday" when the remaining 21 of the EU's 28 countries go to the polls, which despite a rise in support for the far right should confirm the dominance of pro-European centrists.
Germany, France, Spain and Poland are among the major EU member states voting on Sunday, representing the bulk of the 388 million Europeans eligible to cast ballots and elect the 751 deputies to sit in the European Parliament from 2014-2019.
Since Thursday the UK, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Malta and Slovakia have held elections.
After years of economic crisis, rising unemployment and poor growth, some Europeans have come to question the wisdom of ever-closer EU integration and are expected to vote for Eurosceptic parties on the right or left promising radical changes.
Turnout - the most basic measure of citizens' engagement with Europe - is expected to fall again, dropping to just over 40 percent, marginally down from 43 percent in 2009. That would continue the trend of declining participation at every European election since the first direct poll was held in 1979.
The European Parliament has said it will announce preliminary results shortly after 2100 GMT on Sunday, although officials caution that Italy's decision to keep polls open until the same time may well delay any announcement.
Final results and the precise allotment of seats in parliament is expected to be announced by the end of Monday.
A ‘Spitzenkandidat’ for European Commission president
As well as determining the makeup of the next European Parliament, these elections will for the first time influence who becomes president of the European Commission, a powerful role overseeing pan-EU legislation.
Each of the main party groups in Europe has nominated a "Spitzenkandidat" - German for a leading candidate or front runner - who will be their nominee for Commission president if that group should win the election.
While the "Spitzenkandidat" process has increased the pressure on EU leaders to choose the candidate from the party that wins the most seats, they may well have to look elsewhere for a nominee. Britain is staunchly opposed to either Juncker or Schulz, and other member states have quietly expressed reservations.
Parliament leaders will meet on the morning of May 27 to discuss the election results and the Commission presidency, and EU leaders will do the same at a summit on the evening of the same day. But it is expected to take several weeks before leaders decide on a name to put to a parliamentary vote.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-05-25