- Title: VARIOUS: POLITICS - EU leaders vote in parliament elections
- Date: 8th June 2009
- Summary: MADRID, SPAIN (JUNE 7, 2009) (REUTERS) SPANISH PRIME MINISTER JOSE LUIS RODRIGUEZ ZAPATERO AND WIFE SONSOLES ESPINOSA WALKING TOWARDS SECOND BALLOT BOX/ ZAPATERO SHAKES HANDS WITH ELECTION REGULATORS ZAPATERO'S FACE ZAPATERO HANDS OVER HIS BALLOT ELECTION OFFICIAL PLACES BALLOT INSIDE BOX ZAPATERO SHAKES HANDS WITH ELECTION OFFICIALS AND LEAVES ZAPATERO WALKS TOWARDS MICROPHONE FOR NEWS CONFERENCE (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) SPANISH PRIME MINISTER, JOSE LUIS RODRIGUEZ ZAPATERO SAYING: "I had the opportunity to exercise my right to vote. This essential right, fundamental right in a democracy that makes us free. And 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."
- Embargoed: 23rd June 2009 13:00
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA6DOGS3HD4BGE1KK5I8MBKA9VJ
- Story Text: French President Nicolas Sarkozy cast his vote in the European Parliament elections on Sunday (June 7).
Sarkozy and France's first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy voted at a polling station in Paris.
EU states are conducting the final day of voting in an election which is expected to embarrass national governments struggling to combat the effects of the global economic crisis.
Voting took place in 19 countries on the fourth and final day of the election, in which citizens of the other eight EU member states have already cast their ballots.
In Madrid, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said the elections offered a "big opportunity for Spaniards".
"I had the opportunity to exercise my right to vote. This essential right, fundamental right in a democracy that makes us free. And 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," said Zapatero who voted along with his wife Sonsoles Espinosa.
Some 35 million Spaniards are voting to elect 50 Spanish representatives at the European Parliament, but the votes will also be a seen as representative of public opinion on the Spanish government and its opposition.
Opinion polls before the election began in Spain suggested the Popular Party (PP) would win but it was only two to four points ahead of Zapatero's PSOE party.
In 2004 PSOE won with 43.46 percent and 25 representatives against 41.21 percent gained by PP which gave them 24 representatives.
Many voters are worried by rising unemployment and say the EU has done too little, too late, to tackle the economic crisis, although it eventually agreed a fiscal stimulus plan which poured in money to try to revive the economy.
Others say the EU is too distant and has little impact on their daily lives. Some simply do not understand a system in which the parliament shares power with the executive European Commission and a Council of EU heads of state and government.
Although centrist parties are expected to remain the dominant forces in the 736-member assembly, which shapes many EU laws and authorises the EU budget, some far-right parties could make gains if the turnout is particularly low.
Parliament will start releasing results at 2000 GMT after the last ballot station closes.
Opinion polls before the election began suggested fewer than half the 375 million electorate would vote.
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso appealed for voters to come out and let their voices be heard.
"In many of the countries that are now members of the European Union, there were no free elections, so I appeal to everybody to participate and choose their representatives," Barroso said after voting at a polling station in the Portuguese capital Lisbon.
In Germany, European Parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering echoed Barroso's call.
"It is important that we all vote so that we have a reasonable turnout of voters. I am also happy that there is a common European Parliament that we can vote together in the European Union. It is a happy day," Poettering, who will stand down as president after the elections, told reporters outside a polling station in the northern German town of Bad Iburg.
The four days of voting started in Britain and the Netherlands on Thursday (June 4).
On Sunday voting took place in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
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