BRUSSELS, May 26 (Xinhua) -- Voting is underway on Sunday across the majority of the European Union (EU) member states, with polling stations open for ballots to decide on the next European Parliament.
The results will have a major impact on the EU's political direction for the coming five years, weighing on the parliament's stance on a range of issues as well as the race for the bloc's top jobs.
Estonia's 444 polling stations open from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. local time for registered voters to choose 6 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from 66 candidates.
Statistics showed that 25.4 percent of eligible voters in Estonia participated in advance voting of the elections; 155,521 voted electronically and 68,349 in polling venues, said the State Electoral Office.
Recent polls forecasted that the Social Democrats and the Reform Party each will get two seats, while the Center Party, the Conservative People's Party and the Isamaa Party in the Estonian ruling coalition will compete for the other two seats.
Croatian voters started to cast their ballots for the election of 12 MEPs from 7 a.m. on Sunday. Polls will close at 7 p.m.
There are over 3.83 million eligible voters with residency status in Croatia and another 154,000 who have the right to vote but do not reside in Croatia.
A total of 396 candidates - more crowded than the 2014 European elections - are running now for the 12 seats reserved for Croatia in the new European legislature.
Turnout was high on Sunday as Hungarians cast their ballots in the European elections, official sources here said.
By 01:00 p.m. local time on Sunday, 24.01 percent of eligible voters had cast their votes in the elections in Hungary, compared with 15.4 percent in 2014 and 19.4 percent in 2009, according to the Hungarian National Election Office.
The turnout was the highest in the capital Budapest, where it reached nearly 30 percent (versus 18.66 percent in 2014).
Voting lasts until 07:00 p.m. local time, but results will be published only after 11:00 p.m. on Sunday. The ruling Fidesz party is widely expected to win.
Around 10.7 million voters will elect the 21 Portuguese members of the European Parliament, in an election 17 parties and coalitions compete. Five years ago, 33.91 percent of voters voted and abstention was 66.09 percent.
Leading politicians have called for voters to do their civic duty, with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa telling reporters "We have all the duty, the right and the ambition to participate."
Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa on Saturday called on people to make the "small sacrifice" to vote in the elections and not to leave the decision "in the hands of 20 or 25 percent".
"What is decided in Europe is as important as which is decided only in Portugal. And in the coming months and years, Europe will make fundamental decisions for our future," the president said in a message broadcast on television, the radio and the website of the presidency.
Compared with the European elections in 2014, this year the voters in Portugal are only identified by their civil identification numbers after changes in the electoral law.
Another of the most significant changes in electoral legislation is that the census of citizens residing abroad becomes automatic, only if they have citizen's card. The number of voters residing abroad increases from less than 300,000 in the 2014 to 1.4 million this year.
The polling stations opened at 8:00 a.m in mainland Portugal and Madeira, and run continuously until 7:00 p.m local time.
Over 5,000 police officers are mobilized for monitoring the European elections, ensuring security on distribution, collection and delivery of ballot papers.
Romania's 13 political parties and three independent candidates will compete for the 33 seats in the 751-seat European Parliament.
A total of 32 MEPs will promptly take office, with the other one on the waiting list. Once the United Kingdom completed the withdrawal from the EU, the European Parliament's headcount will shrink from 751 to 705, and the one Romania MEP-elect would take the seat.
Over 18 million voters nationwide will vote in more than 18,000 polling stations, while overseas voters can make their choices at some 440 polling stations in other countries.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said after voting that "Do come, dear Romanians, to vote! Don't let others decide for you."
Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila said after casting the vote, "Today, I voted for a strong Romania, a powerful member state will lead to a strong European Union."