Centre-right parties retained control of the European Parliament in an election that ended with a record low turnout but could have brought much worse upsets for national governments.

For more, including election results, visit RTÉ.ie/Elections

Partial results showed the European People's Party would remain the main group in parliament, ahead of the Socialists, strengthening its ability to set the agenda in an assembly that passes many of the European Union's laws and its budget.

The governing centre-right groups won in Germany, France, Poland and Italy, and Green parties did well on a bad night for the Socialists, who failed to cash in on widespread discontent with Europe's handling of the global economic crisis.

Turnout was a record low of 43% and governing parties suffered defeat in Ireland, Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria and Spain, according to exit polls and partial results.

Britain's ruling Labour Party was also expected to be defeated.

But EU leaders are likely to breathe a sigh of relief that far-right parties did not fare better, despite making gains in some countries, and the 736-seat parliament remains stable.

‘I don't expect any major difficulties in decision-making. The composition of this parliament will not be significantly different from the previous one,’ EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.

The victory of centre-right forces is likely to help Jose Manuel Barroso, a conservative, win a new term as president of the EU's executive European Commission - a post that requires the parliament's approval.

Nineteen EU member states voted on the fourth and final day of the election to the parliament, which has the final say in the appointment of top EU leaders and the Union's budget. The eight others had already voted.

Many voters are worried by rising unemployment and say the EU has done too little to tackle the economic crisis, although it eventually poured in money to try to revive Europe's economy. Others regard it as having little impact on their daily lives.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP won in France with about 28% of votes. The biggest surprise was provided by a coalition of Green politicians, led by 1968 student leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit, which took some 16% of the vote.

Greek voters handed the opposition Socialists victory over the ruling New Democracy party, but Bulgaria's ruling Socialists were punished for failing to tame corruption and organised crime, four weeks before a national parliamentary election.

The main Russian-speakers' party and other opposition groups made gains in Latvia, where the government faces a deep economic crisis and talk of currency devaluation.