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Low Turnout In Enlarged European Parliament Elections

14 June 2004 -- Most ruling parties in the European Union have suffered defeats in the first elections for a newly enlarged European Parliament marked by record low turnout.

Voters punished governments who supported the U.S.-led war on Iraq, painful economic reforms, and in the former communist Eastern Europe they showed no sympathy for leaders who had guided them into the EU on 1 May.

Turnout was estimated to have slumped to less than 45 percent of the 350 million voters in the bloc's 25 member states -- the lowest since the first elections to the assembly in 1979.

The pan-national polls climaxed on the fourth and final day yesterday with voting in 19 states after elections over the three previous days in other EU nations.

In Britain, the anti-EU U.K. Independence Party made a breakthrough by taking 12 seats.

Ruling parties won the elections in Spain, Greece, and Slovakia.

(compiled from wire reports)