Left-wing Syriza heading to victory in Greek vote

Leader of the Greek radical-left Syriza party and former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras exits a polling booth in central Athens. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Leader of the Greek radical-left Syriza party and former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras exits a polling booth in central Athens. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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The left-wing Syriza party of former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appeared to have won Greece’s early election yesterday, but without the absolute majority needed to form a government, according to exit poll projections.

Updated exit poll data projected Syriza winning between 33 and 35 per cent compared to New Democracy at between 28.5 and 30 per cent.

Last night the head of Greece’s conservative New Democracy party, Vangelis Meimarakis, conceded the country’s early election, congratulating former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and calling for government to be quickly formed. “The election result appears to be forming comprehensively with Syriza and Mr Tsipras coming first,” Meimarakis said.

“I congratulate him and call on him to form the government that is necessary, and bring the (proposal) to parliament.” Syriza supporters outside the party’s main electoral centre cheered and clapped, waving party flags when the exit poll results were announced. The survey was conducted jointly for Greek TV channels by five of the country’s largest certified polling firms.

A tired-looking Tsipras was hugged by party supporters last night as he arrived at Syriza headquarters, waving to the crowd gathered outside.

Eight parties appeared to have won enough votes to enter parliament, with a ninth – the anti-bailout Popular Unity party formed by rebel Syriza members – struggling to make it past the three per cent threshold. The final number of parties entering parliament will dictate how many of the 300 seats each party will have, which will affect the winner’s choices in seeking coalition partners.

The small nationalist Independent Greeks, which was Syriza’s junior coalition partner in its seven-month government, was projected to win 4 per cent, making it into parliament but potentially with too few seats to rule out a third party being needed to form a coalition.

It is the third time this year Greeks have voted, after January elections that brought Tsipras to power on an anti-bailout platform, and a June referendum he called urging voters to reject creditor reform proposals.

Tsipras, 41, triggered the election by resigning in August, barely seven months into his four-year term, after facing a rebellion within Syriza over his policy U-turn in accepting the spending cuts and tax hikes stipulated by the bailout. Tsipras had won the January elections on pledges of abolishing such measures, tied to Greece’s first two bailouts.

Syriza member and former energy minister Panos Skourletis applauded the indicated result.

“It is the first time a party brings in a tough bailout deal and is rewarded,” he said on private Alpha television. “Until now, the electorate was clearly anti-bailout.”

Former Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said stability lay ahead for Greece.