Greece's anti-bailout Syriza party wins election

2015-01-25 22:31
Head of Syriza leftist party Alexis Tsipras. (Louisa Gouliamaki, AFP)

Head of Syriza leftist party Alexis Tsipras. (Louisa Gouliamaki, AFP)

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Athens - The anti-bailout Syriza party won a clear victory in austerity-weary Greece's national elections on Sunday, according to projections by state-run TV's exit poll, in a historic first for a radical left-wing party in the country.

But it was unclear whether the communist-rooted party, led by 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, had won by a big enough margin over Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' incumbent conservatives to govern alone. For that, they need a minimum 151 of parliament's 300 seats.

Official results from 17.6% of polling stations counted showed Syriza with 35% and Samaras' New Democracy with 29.3%. An exit poll on state-run Nerit TV projected Syriza as winning with between 36% and 38%, compared to ND with 26%-28%.

Earlier projections had given Syriza 146-158 seats in parliament, and New Democracy 65-75 seats.

Tsipras has promised to renegotiate the country's €240bn international bailout deal, and seek forgiveness for most of Greece's massive debt load. He has pledged to reverse many of the reforms that creditors demanded - including cuts in pensions and the minimum wage, some privatisations and public sector firings - in exchange for keeping Greece financially afloat since 2010.

"What's clear is we have a historic victory that sends a message that does not only concern the Greek people, but all European peoples," Syriza party spokesperson Panos Skourletis said on Mega television. "There is great relief among all Europeans. The only question is how big a victory it is."

Skourletis said the election results heralded "a return of social dignity and social justice. A return to democracy. Because, beyond the wild austerity, democracy has suffered."

Syriza's anti-bailout rhetoric appealed to many in a country that, in the past five years of its acute financial crisis, has seen a quarter of its economy wiped out, unemployment of above 25%, and average income losses of at least 30%.

But it has also renewed doubts over Greece's ability to emerge from its financial crisis, and fears that the country's finances could once again send shockwaves through global markets and undermine the euro, the currency shared by 19 European countries.

Samaras' New Democracy party conceded defeat not too long after the exit poll was announced.

"We lost," Health Minister and conservative party parliamentary spokesperson Makis Voridis told private Mega TV, adding that the extent of the defeat wasn't yet clear. He said the government's austerity policies, implemented to secure vital international bailouts, "make sense" but were cut short before they could bear fruit.

Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis congratulated Syriza, saying its victory "cannot be questioned".

"It is evident the Greek people believed there is another way forward than the one described by the government," he said. "For the good of the country, I hope they are right."

A Syriza government will see Tsipras becoming Greece's youngest prime minister in 150 years.

Read more on:    greece  |  greece elections

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