Latvia, Malta cast EU ballots
(CNN) -- Voters in Latvia and Malta have begun casting ballots in their first European Parliament elections.
The two countries, which joined the European Union only last month, are voting Saturday along with Italy as part of four days of elections across the bloc.
Balloting for representatives to the enlarged 25-country European Parliament began Thursday in Britain and the Netherlands.
Those were followed by elections Friday in Republic of Ireland and the Czech Republic.
The Czechs, the first people from the former Soviet bloc to cast EU ballots, are continuing to vote Saturday.
The European Commission has ordered an embargo on results across the EU until all voting is completed late Sunday.
However, the Netherlands sparked a row with Brussels when it released provisional results late Thursday. (Full story)
That prompted a threat of legal action from the European Commission.
On May 1, the EU added 10 new members -- mainly from eastern Europe -- to the previous 15-nation bloc.
As a result, nearly 350 million people are eligible to cast ballots in the EU elections, which will send 732 representatives to the legislative assembly for five-year terms.
The European Parliament is based in Strasbourg, France and Brussels, Belgium, with part of its administration also in Luxembourg. (What is the European Parliament?)
It has growing influence over EU legislation on issues including finance, food, trade and the environment.
However, analysts say few people vote in European elections on such matters, with many citizens saying the assembly has little influence on their daily lives.
Instead, the polls are seen more as a popularity test for national governments.
On Saturday, voters in Italy -- where polling runs until Sunday -- are expected to use the combined EU and local elections as a mid-term test for the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
In Britain, some opponents of Prime Minister Tony Blair have also tried to make the EU-local vote a referendum on the UK's backing of Iraq war. ( Full story)
Others, like the United Kingdom Independence Party, are focusing on the EU itself. UKIP wants Britain to quit the bloc immediately and it is expected to make gains in Thursday's election.
Irish voters on Friday also faced a referendum on citizenship that has prompted a debate on race and highlighted tensions as the EU expands eastwards.
On Sunday, ballots will be cast in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.
Officials results will be announced after all of the polls have closed Sunday.