DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) -- The future of the European Union hung in the balance Saturday as Ireland voted for the second time in less than 18 months on the EU's plans for eastward expansion.
Ireland's rejection of the Treaty of Nice, the EU's blueprint for enlargement, dismayed European leaders in June 2001. Commentators blamed the result on a paltry turnout of just over a third of eligible voters.
Wrapped up against a chilly autumn Saturday morning, 49-year-old Sean Killalee was first through the doors at a primary school on Dublin's Whitefriars Street after polling stations around the country opened at 9 a.m.
"I will vote yes. They deserve a fair crack of the whip," Killalee said, referring to the dozen applicant states, many from the former communist bloc, waiting to join the EU.
"It'll be good for the Irish economy, and for everybody else."
In an identical referendum last year, Ireland said "no" to ratifying the treaty. Political analysts said a higher turnout this time would favor the "yes" campaign.
"It all hinges on the turnout," said Ben Tonra, an EU policy analyst at University College Dublin. "Something as simple as whether it rains or is sunny could make all the difference."
Saturday's forecast called for cold but clear weather.
The streets of the capital have been covered with slogans for weeks, with a forest of posters and placards making the case for and against.
"You will lose power, money and freedom," declares one of the "no" camp's dramatic notices fluttering in the breeze opposite Dublin Castle.
"Yes for a strong economy," says a sign posted by their opponents, led by Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.
Ahern insists the EU's plans to embrace the new members will be a boon for Ireland, boosting its economy and the European Union's cultural diversity.
A second "no" vote would lead to an "unprecedented crisis," Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said earlier this week.
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