Manfred Weber, the top candidate of the European People's Party (EPP) for the European elections, votes at a polling station in Wildenberg, Germany, on May 26, 2019. Voters in Germany cast their ballots on Sunday in elections to the European Parliament (EP). (Xinhua/Lu Yang)
BRUSSELS, May 26 (Xinhua) -- Voters in Germany, Lithuania, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece and Italy cast their ballots on Sunday in elections to the European Parliament (EP).
Citizens of the 28 European Union (EU) member countries, among whom over 400 million voters are eligible, are expected to vote over the course of four days, starting from Thursday, to elect 751 members of EP (MEPs) for a five-year term.
GERMANY'S GREEN PARTY GAINING POPULARITY
The competition for the 96 seats in the EP is being taken seriously in Germany this year compared to the previous election cycles. A total of 41 German parties are registered for the election.
The polling stations are open from 08:00 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) to 06:00 p.m. local time (1600 GMT).
The election takes place in a climate of deep uncertainty about the stability of the EU in the wake of Brexit and the spread of Eurosceptic sentiment. Germany, with the largest population in the EU, felt obliged to voice their opinions.
A surge in support for Germany's Green Party is expected to lead to its winning of 17 percent of the votes, a big improvement from its around 10-percent share, according to the poll by Infratest Dimap.
Many voters are attracted by their pro-EU policies, humane stance on migration and firm position on tackling climate change and environment protection.
BULGARIA TO ELECT 17 MEPS
Bulgarians went to the polls Sunday to elect 17 MEPs for the fourth time in the country's history.
Nearly 6.35 million eligible voters will choose among 312 candidates from 13 political parties and eight coalitions, as well as six independent candidates.
Some 11,660 polling stations across the country opened at 7:00 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and is due to close at 8:00 p.m. (1800 GMT). In addition, 191 polling stations in 64 countries are available for Bulgarians living abroad.
The exit polls will be announced immediately after polls close, and the official results are expected on Wednesday.
A survey, conducted by Mediana Polling Agency and released Thursday, showed that the two main parties -- ruling GERB party and opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party -- were neck and neck, winning 31.1 percent and 29.8 percent of the votes respectively, followed by the Movement for Rights and Freedoms with 11.4 percent.
A girl casts her mother's ballot at a polling station in Vilnius, Lithuania, May 26, 2019. The presidential runoff kicked off in Lithuania on Sunday with former Finance Minister Ingrida Simonyte and economist Gitanas Nauseda contending for the country's top job. European Parliament (EU) elections in Lithuania were held alongside the runoff. (Xinhua/Alfredas Pliadis)
LITHUANIAN TRADITIONAL PARTIES TO WIN
Polling stations are open from 7 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) to 8 p.m. (1700 GMT), with approximately 2.49 million eligible voters across the country, according to the Central Electoral Commission.
Sixteen parties and election committees -- an alternative form for the citizens to run for elections without establishing a party -- compete for 11 seats in the EP.
According to the latest public polls, traditional parties are to win the elections.
Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, the country's ruling party, gained 21.1 percent of the votes, followed by the Homeland Union-Christian Democrats gaining 20.5 percent of the votes, showed the survey conducted by Baltijos tyrimai in April.
Lithuania's Social Democratic Party ranks third with 11.4 percent of the votes, according to the poll.
Lithuania's elections to the EP are held alongside the runoff on Sunday.
CYPRUS TO ELECT SIX DEPUTIES
Cypriot voters will elect six deputies to the EP, Chief Election Officer Kypros Kyprianou said Sunday, adding that polling stations are open from 8 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) to 6 p.m. (1500 GMT).
Official results will be announced after midnight, when polling stations in all EU countries will close.
This election has two highlights -- large numbers of Turkish Cypriot voters, and whether the extreme right will manage to enter the EP for the first time by taking a seat traditionally held by EDEK Socialist Party.
This is the first time Turkish Cypriots are expected to take part in an electoral process organized by the Cyprus authorities since they pulled out of the internationally recognized government of Cyprus in 1964 to form their own breakaway administration.
Kyprianou said that the electoral authorities expect about 10,000 Turkish Cypriots out of a total of 81,000 eligible voters to cross the buffer zone to cast their ballot papers.
A total of 641,000 people in Cyprus are eligible to vote, the electoral authorities said they fear that the abstention may be as high as 60 percent, despite a big campaign organized by the EU and Cyprus authorities to encourage voters, especially young people, to vote.
Public opinion surveys suggested that two of the seats will go to the center-right ruling DISY party, two to the opposition left-wing AKEL party, and one to the center DIKO party.
The sixth seat will provide the biggest excitement, as three parties -- Socialist EDEK, the Greens in coalition with another small party, and extreme-right ELAM party -- have equal possibilities to win the seat, according to the latest opinion polls.
Greek main opposition New Democracy party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis (L) is seen at a polling station in Athens, Greece on May 26, 2019. Voters in Greece cast their ballots on Sunday in elections to the European Parliament (EP). (Xinhua/Michalis Karagiannis)
GREEK OPPOSITION PARTY LEADING ELECTION
About 9.89 million citizens aged 17 and above, including half a million new voters, are eligible to vote at some 39,000 polling stations, according to the Greek Interior Ministry.
A total of 1,155 candidates from 40 parties vie for Greece's 21 seats in the EP. Polling stations are open between 7 a.m. local time (1000 GMT) and 7 p.m. (2200 GMT).
According to recent opinion surveys, the conservatives of the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party lead the EP elections. ND's leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called for snap polls should the ruling leftist SYRIZA party be defeated tonight.
Most pollsters give ND over 30 percent of the votes in the electoral battle for the EP, SYRIZA around 25 percent, while the ultra-Right Chryssi Avghi and the centrist Movement for Change vie for the third place with some 7 percent of the votes. The Greek Communist party is expected to be in the fifth place with 5 percent of the votes.
The abstention rate was about 40 percent.
A woman votes at a polling station in Rome, Italy, May 26, 2019. The European Parliament (EU) elections started in Italy on Sunday. (Xinhua/Cheng Tingting)
ITALY TO ELECT 76 MEPS
Italians are going to polling stations Sunday to elect 76 MEPs. Around 50 million Italians are eligible to vote, the equivalent of around 80 percent of the country's population.
The nationalist, anti-migrant League is expected to be the top vote-getter, improving on its 6-percent showing from the previous vote in 2014.
A big question is the accuracy of political polls, which have often proved inaccurate in Italy. The consensus is that the League will earn around 30 percent of the votes. That outcome would put it ahead of its coalition partner, the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement, which is projected to earn around 20 percent, barely ahead of the center-left Democratic Party, the main opposition party.
Polls will close at 11 p.m. local time (2100 GMT). Results from exit polls will be available soon after, with official results expected to be announced early on Monday.