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Greece's far-left Syriza party race ahead in exit polls as government concedes defeat

Exit polls have placed support for the party at between 35.5% and 39.5%.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated 6.50pm

THE ANTI- BAILOUT SYRIZA party won a decisive victory in 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 Greece

But it was unclear whether the communist-rooted party, led by 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.

“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 spokesman 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”.

Greece Election People react as they watch the exit poll results at the election kiosk of Syriza. Source: AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

Tsipras, 40, has promised to renegotiate the country’s 240 billion-euro ($270 billion) international bailout deal. He has pledged to reverse many of the reforms that creditors demanded — including cuts in pensions and the minimum wage, some privatizations and public sector firings — in exchange for keeping Greece financially afloat since 2010.

The anti-bailout rhetoric has renewed doubts over Greece’s ability to emerge from its financial crisis that has seen a quarter of its economy wiped out, sent unemployment soaring and undermined 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 spokesman Makis Voridis told private Mega TV, adding that the extent of the defeat wasn’t yet clear.

Our role will be the one the Greek people assigned to us: the major opposition party. From this standpoint, we will critique the (new) government’s policies, remaining true to our principles.

Voridis said the government’s austerity policies, implemented to secure vital international bailouts, “make sense” but were cut short before they could bear fruit.

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Greece’s creditors insist the country must abide by previous commitments to continue receiving support, and investors and markets alike have been spooked by the anti-bailout rhetoric.

Greece could face bankruptcy if a solution is not found, although speculation of a “Grexit” — Greece leaving the euro — and a potential collapse of the currency has been far less fraught than during the last general election in 2012.

Paul Murphy TD, who is in Athens for the election, said:

Today, the Greek people have spoken clearly. They have rejected the horror and barbarism of austerity visited upon them by the Troika and the Greek political establishment. They have done so despite an incredible campaign of fear against them, which simply did not work.

More on this as we have it. Additional reporting by Nicky Ryan.

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