The election to the European Parliament includes some unusual and controversial candidates.
Following are brief profiles of some of them.
BARBARA MATERA, a former showgirl and actress, represents the People of Freedom Party of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose estranged wife called the attractive blondes and TV starlets in the election "entertainment for the emperor." Matera was quoted by Corriere della Sera newspaper as saying: "In my heart there have always been two things: The faith in Padre Pio (a saint considered a miracle worker by devotees) and the dream of becoming a dancer...I know what I can do. I am aware of my preparation and of my passion for politics."
MITRO REPO, an Orthodox priest in Finland, was stripped of his priesthood on May 26 for the period of the election campaign and for the duration of his tenure in parliament if elected. The Bishops' Conclave of the Orthodox Church of Finland cited in its decision a 5th-century canon against taking part in any historical or political movement. "The Church sees itself as timeless and universal, and it neither idealizes any historical moment nor political movement," the Conclave said.
EMANUELE FILIBERTO di SAVOIA, grandson of the last king of Italy and winner of TV show "Dancing with the Stars," is running in the region where the Savoy family dynasty -- whose male heirs were exiled in 1948 because of its relations with the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini -- has its origins. He is backed by the centrist Union of Christian Democrats Party. "I did Dancing with the Stars to get myself better known by Italians," said the prince, who is married to French actress Clotilde Courau.
COSTAS KYRIAKOU, a 51-year-old writer and farmer who is also known as Utopos, is running in Cyprus as an independent candidate. He vows to re-create Cyprus's urban society, turning the island into perfect city states, or Utopias. In time, he says, his message will be spread throughout the world. He also espouses healthy lifestyles and says men and women should have as many sexual partners as they wish. He has run for the presidency of the island on two previous occasions and made many unsuccessful attempts to run for Cyprus's parliament.
HANS-PETER MARTIN, an ex-journalist who has campaigned against sleaze and bureaucracy, is expected to win 14 percent of the vote in Austria. Elected to the European Parliament in 1999 as a Social Democrat, he is running for the second time as an independent. One of his tactics as a fighter against bureaucracy has been to give away light bulbs to protest against an EU ban favoring energy-saving lamps. In 2004 he said he had evidence of 7,200 cases in which members of the assembly claimed allowances for parliamentary sessions they had not attended.
ALEXANDER TOMOV, a former vice-president of Bulgaria, ex-president of CSKA Sofia soccer club and former director of the insolvent Kremikovtzi steel mill, is awaiting trial on charges of embezzling 36 million levs ($26 million). He could gain immunity if elected to the European Parliament.
IVAILO DRAZHEV, the former head of the Chernomorets soccer club in Bulgaria, is also awaiting trial. He is accused of drunk driving and causing the death of two people in 1998, and is charged with siphoning off cash from a company he privatized the same year.
RACHIDA DATI, France's justice minister, is being forced to run as part of President Nicolas Sarzoky's plan to remove gaffe-prone politicians from this cabinet. Known to enjoy the Paris high life, critics have doubted her commitment to Europe. "Europe takes care of things that it is given to take care of, with people who can bring it things to take care of," she told one election meeting, increasing doubts about her commitment.
DIEUDONNE M'BALA M'BALA, a French stand-up comic known for anti-Semitic remarks and his association with Holocaust deniers, has said Zionism is a grave danger to France. The government tried to ban him but failed to find sufficient legal grounds. "Zionism is a gangrene in France. It is a danger," Dieudonne said this year. He is unlikely to be elected.
ELENA BASESCU, the 29-year-old daughter of Romanian President Traian Basescu, is a former model whose romantic life regularly makes front page news. She says she wants to help the children of migrant workers and developing the Danube Delta. She She caused a stir by saying she supported legalizing marijuana in Romania, a staunchly conservative society.
CORNELIU VADIM TUDOR, 59, a far-right veteran of Romania's political scene, Tudor was a court poet for the late Stalinist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. He is popular with many Romanians who feel left behind by free-market reforms. The platform for his Greater Romania Party is a mix of racism, anti-Semitism and nostalgia for communism.
GIGI BECALI, 50, one of Romania's richest men and owner of Steaua Bucharest soccer club, has been indicted on bribery charges and faces an investigation in a kidnapping case. Born in a shepherd family, he made a fortune in real estate and founded the nationalist New Generation Party. He built support through charity for the poor and the Orthodox church, paying electricity bills and funding houses in flooded villages. He was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2004 presidential election.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer in Paris, Silvia Aloisi in Rome, Yegor Paanukoski in Helsinki, Irina Ivanova in Sofia and Alexandra Zawodil, Justyna Pawlak in Bucharest and Boris Groendahl in Vienna)