THE anti-bailout Syriza party won a clear victory in Greece’s national elections yesterday, according to projections by state-run TV’s exit poll.
It was a historic first for a radical left-wing party in the country. However, it was unclear last night 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, the party needs a minimum 151 of parliament’s 300 seats.
Mr Tsipras has promised to renegotiate the austerity-weary country’s €240 billion (£178bn) international bailout deal, and seek forgiveness for most of Greece’s massive debt.
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,” a Syriza party spokesman said. “There is great relief among all Europeans. The only question is how big a victory it is.”
He added 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 per cent, and average income losses of at least 30 per cent.
It has renewed doubts over Greece’s ability to emerge from its financial crisis and fears that it could again send shock waves through world markets and undermine the euro.
Mr Samaras’ New Democracy party conceded defeat not long after the exit poll was announced.
“We lost,” health minister Makis Voridis said, adding that the extent of the defeat was not 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”. He said:“The Greek people believed there is another way forward than the one described by the government. For the good of the country, I hope they are right.”
Greeks have faced years of austerity measures and creditors insist the country must abide by previous commitments to continue receiving support. Investors and markets alike have been spooked by the anti-bailout rhetoric. Greece could face bankruptcy if a solution is not found.
In the election the centrist Potami (River) party was battling for third place with the Nazi-inspired, extreme right-wing Golden Dawn. Both were projected as winning between 6 and 7 per cent of the vote.
An exit poll on state-run TV showed Syriza as having won with between 36 and 38 per cent of the ballots last night, compared to New Democracy which took 26-28 per cent.