Early exit polls show Bulgaria's ruling Socialists have won the most seats in the European Parliament in the Balkan country's first such election since joining the European Union in January.

The preliminary polls show Socialists with nearly 24 percent of unday's vote, followed closely by the new center-right GERB party.

Pre-election surveys showed the Socialists capturing as many as seven of Bulgaria's 18 seats in the 785-member EU assembly, despite a corruption scandal implicating top government officials.  Two other parties in Sofia's coalition government were seen winning five or six seats.

Pollsters were expecting a low voter turnout, with pre-election surveys showing domestic concerns outweighing voter interest in European affairs.

Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev has dismissed two deputy cabinet ministers, and the economy minister, and the government's top investigator have taken leave pending the outcome of the latest corruption probe.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.