Irish voters have begun casting ballots in the European Parliament elections on day two of the 28-nation poll.
Britain and the Netherlands got the election underway yesterday, in which 427million people are eligible to vote – and a Dutch exit poll showed an early setback for Europe’s populists.
Most major parties in Dublin have campaigned heavily to cement the country’s place in the EU amid swirling political turmoil in Britain.
Candidates for the European Parliament have also pledged to limit the economic shock of Brexit – which could radiate into Ireland.
Two Irish MEPs will be elected to new seats, created in anticipation of Britain’s 73 lawmakers leaving their posts.
However they will be unable to take up their positions until Britain finalises its split with the EU.
Supporters of the Dutch Labour Party celebrate after an exit poll showed them heading for an unexpected victory in the European Parliament elections
European Parliament election by numbers
The estimated number of voters in EU states, making these elections the second-biggest democratic contest in the world, after India.
Voters become eligible aged 18 in most EU nations, but Greeks can vote at 17 and Austrians and Maltese at 16.
42.6 per cent
The 2014 turnout rate, the worst ever recorded in a European election.
European participation has steadily declined since the first vote in 1979, when it reached 62 per cent.
Belgium, where voting is compulsory, had the highest turnout in 89.7 per cent.
The lowest rates were shown by the Slovaks at 13.1 per cent, Czechs at 18.2 per cent and Poles with 23.8 per cent.
The number of MEPs who will take office in the elections.
Seats are proportional to population: Germany will have 96 MEPs and France 74, while Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg will have only six.
Once Britain leaves the EU, there will only be 705 MEPs in the chamber. Some of the British seats will be redistributed and others mothballed until new member states join.
Despite deep uncertainty over Brexit, countries set to gain seats will vote for these additional MEPs in the May election, but the winners will only take office once the divorce is official.
The average age of MEPs elected in 2014 – including a 26-year-old Dane and a 91-year-old Greek.
In Italy and Greece, the minimum age is 25 years, while in Romania it is 23.
36.9 per cent
The proportion of women elected to parliament in 2014 was just over a third, the most ever.
Since the first election in 1979, when the parliament was only 16.3 per cent women, this share has risen steadily.
Parity or better is currently achieved in five member states: Finland (10 seats out of 13), Ireland (six out of 11), Croatia (six out of 11), Malta (three out of six) and Sweden (10 out of 20).
Cyprus (one of six), Bulgaria (three of 17) and Lithuania (two of 11) are the worst performers.
Later on Friday the Czech Republic will begin its two-day voting process.
There, Prime Minister Andrej Babis is facing criminal charges over EU subsidy fraud and an EU probe into his dual role as politician and entrepreneur.
In recent weeks, thousands of people have rallied against Babis and his newly-appointed justice minister on fears she might try to clear him.
Nonetheless, the embattled party is predicted to win the most votes in the EU elections.
Britain and the Netherlands began the voting process yesterday, with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party tipped to win a UK election which was never supposed to take place.
Some polls have shown the Conservatives dropping into single as furious voters blame the ruling party for failing to get Brexit over the line.
In Holland, an exit poll showed a surprise result with the left-wing Labour party apparently on course for victory.
European Commission Vice-President Timmermans’s Labour party had campaigned on a fiercely pro-Europe platform.
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte’s party and the populist Forum for Democracy were heading for second and third place respectively.
The Forum for Democracy of climate-sceptic populist leader Thierry Baudet was projected to win three seats, the same as the Groenlinks environmental party.
The anti-Islam Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, which has lost votes to Baudet, was meanwhile set to slump to one seat, from its current three.
Opinion polls in the run-up to the vote had predicted that Rutte and Baudet’s parties would share the lead.
The rest of the EU will cast its ballots over the weekend before results begin to be published late on Sunday.
More than 40 million European voters are eligible to elect 751 European Parliament members.
Pro-European leaders fear a good showing for populist Eurosceptics will disrupt Brussels decision-making, threatening reform efforts at closer integration.
Matteo Salvini of Italy’s anti-immigrant League and Marine Le Pen of France’s far-right National Rally (RN) want their Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group to become the third-argest in Brussels.
The League has topped opinion polls in Italy.
Dutch politician Frans Timmermans votes at a polling station in Heerlen yesterday. Exit polls showed his Labour party on course for a surprise victory
Dutch voters cast their ballots in the European elections at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport
Le Pen wants to strike a blow to Emmanuel Macron’s faltering French presidency by overtaking his centrist, pro-European party Republic on the Move.
Losing to Ms Le Pen’s RN – formerly known as the National Front – could be a glaring blow to Macron’s ambitions.
Sources close to Macron say a bad loss could prompt a major cabinet reshuffle, with the job of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe seen as being on the line.
His European allies, grouped together in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), may only end up with around 100 seats.
Polls give Ms Le Pen’s party a slight edge, with around 23 per cent support.
In Germany, surveys show Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party in first place, with the Greens second.
Former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker is stepping down after five years as president of the European Commission.
The hunt will also be on for someone to replace former Polish premier Donald Tusk as head of the EU council.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron (pictured in Paris earlier this week) is under pressure from his 2017 election opponent Marine Le Pen
Nigel Farage votes in the European elections in Britain where his Brexit Party is tipped to win as voters punish the Conservatives for failing to get Brexit over the line