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Votes for European Parliament seen as local referendums

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The campaign for one of the world's biggest parliamentary elections is under way in 10 European states. This unusual election is taking place amid the enthusiastic fervor of politicians and parties but general public apathy.

At stake are 434 seats for five-year terms in the Parliament of the European Community.

The voting among the 270 million residents of the 10 EC member countries on June 14 to 17 is being seen as a major test of the credibility of the Parliament and the entire EC. But in many member countries, the furious campaigning is regarded more as a referendum or public opinion poll on the popularity of the local government and the opposition parties.

Such partisan parochialism in France, for instance, caused the Paris daily Le Monde to remark last week, ''There is little that is European in the European election campaign.''

In the Netherlands there is concern that the balloting might become an unofficial referendum on the controversial deployment of US nuclear missiles there.

And a recent speech on German television by Bavarian Christian Social Union leader Franz Josef Strauss had all the makings of a traditional attack on the German Social Democratic Party.

In little Luxembourg the EC election is being combined with a local parliamentary one.

Another characteristic is the widespread public apathy about the international campaign. A recent poll in Britain indicated that only 13 percent of those questioned were aware of the forthcoming election.

Another poll conducted by the EC itself in the 10 countries showed some 62 percent intended to vote, about the same level as five years ago.

Only 36 percent in Britain were so inclined, while 80 or 90 percent were in Belgium, Luxembourg, and Greece.

A survey of the press in several EC states in recent days reveals the pervasiveness of the lack of interest.

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