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European Parliament Elections Seeing Low Turnout

Voters across Europe are casting their ballots in European elections, expected to see a record low voter turnout and gains for far-right and far-left parties. In Italy, scandal hit Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is the only leader of a large EU member state to stand as head of an electoral list.

Voter apathy is expected to characterize the election to select new representatives for the European Union's parliament. Italy is representative of this situation. Voting resumed across the country Sunday following a slow first day.

Just more than 17 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots on Saturday, but polling stations will remain open until 10 pm. With European Union issues taking a backseat in the election campaign, the vote in Italy is widely viewed as a test of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's popularity.

The Italian-government leader has been caught up in a scandal, involving his friendship with an 18-year-old woman. Mr. Berlusconi's private life has come under intense scrutiny in the past few weeks with the publication in a Spanish newspaper of a photo of topless women at his seaside villa in Sardinia.

The prime minister has condemned it as an invasion of privacy and his lawyer has said he would take legal action against the newspaper. Mr. Berlusconi is hoping for a strong victory in the elections that will show that the scandal is not affecting him politically.

A major issue dominating this vote is also the government's stance on immigration. Mr. Berlusconi recently said that when he walks the streets of Milan, he sees so many non-Italians he feels he is no longer in an Italian or European city, but in an African one.

The results of the vote are expected to signal whether the anti-immigration Northern League, the junior partner in Mr. Berlusconi's conservative coalition, can emulate the success of similar parties elsewhere in Europe.

Italians are electing 72 European Union MPs. Voters are also casting ballots to elect thousands of municipal candidates, including the mayors of some major cities. This man is voting in earthquake stricken l'Aquila.

He says that for the first time he is voting in a tent and he hopes it will be the last.

Turnout in the area is also much lower, with 60,000 people still living in tents and overcrowded hotels on the Adriatic coast, following a devastating quake two months ago.