The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Britain, Netherlands go to polls first as a divided Europe votes on EU's future

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LONDON - Voting began Thursday in Britain and the Netherlands for European Parliament elections in which Euroskeptic parties stand to be the likely beneficiaries of a disillusioned and apathetic electorate.

Some 400 million Europeans are eligible to vote, with national polls being held Thursday through Sunday. Results will be announced late Sunday.

More than 16,000 candidates from 953 parties or lists — from greens to feminists to the far-right — are vying for the legislature's 751 seats.

Continent-wide voter turnout was 43 per cent at the last election in 2009 but could slump even lower this time. Many voters are weary after several years of economic crisis and austerity, and increasingly skeptical of efforts to unite the continent into an economic and political superpower.

In Britain, the anti-EU U.K. Independence Party could gain the largest share of votes.

"If we get what we like things will never be quite the same again," said its leader, Nigel Farage, as he prepared to vote at a school near his southern England home.

Prominent Euroskeptic Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, voted early Thursday at a school in a residential neighbourhood on the outskirts of The Hague. He said "a vote for my party is a vote for national sovereignty, for less immigration, for less Brussels."

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