Alexis Tsipras’ left-wing SYRIZA pulls ahead in Greek elections

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Preliminary official results in Greece’s snap election showed left-wing SYRIZA pulling far ahead on Sunday with nearly 30 per cent of the vote counted, prompting conservative rival New Democracy to concede defeat.

Tallies by the Ministry of the Interior showed SYRIZA clinching 35.4 per cent, conservative New Democracy with 28.2 per cent and far-right extremist Golden Dawn garnering 7.3 per cent. Depending on the final count, even if it retains its lead SYRIZA will likely need to find a coalition partner to form a government.

Television footaged shortly after the initial official results were released showed SYRIZA’s Alexis Tsipras arriving at his party headuarters smiling and waving at supporters. Party members said that the question was not whether SYRIZA would win, but by how much.

“This result is a message for Europe, that the left forces are present and that they can and will move things over the next period of time,” Kostas Tsipras, government official and a cousin of the former prime minister, told dpa.

New Democracy leader Evangelos Meimarakis congratulated Tsipras in televised remarks, calling on him to form a government.

With one fifth of the ballots counted, SYRIZA was expected to secure 144 seats in parliament including a 50-seat bonus for the leading party, leaving them seven short of an outright majority of 151 seats. New Democracy would have 75 seats, and Golden Dawn 19. Centrist, pro-Europe Pasok was expected to get 17 seats, and Communist party KKE 15.

Projection showed turnout at ballot stations was exceptionally low at 55 per cent, indicating that after five years of belt-tightening measures during which the economy has lost a quarter of its value and three elections since the beginning of the year, Greece is weary of politicians’ promises.

During the last parliamentary election in January, 64 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot.

Tsipras had said he resigned and triggered the election because he needed a renewed mandate to implement the terms of a bailout programme that included 86 billion euros (97 billion dollars) in funding for the struggling Greek economy.

Those terms include further budget cuts and tactics to raise money for the state, including privatization of assets. While the measures were widely unpopular, they were considered necessary to secure financing that would keep Greece in the eurozone.

Nevertheless, neck-and-neck surveys over the last weeks seemed to threaten Tsipras’ vast popularity, and it seemed fleetingly unclear whether SYRIZA voters would remain loyal after the disappointing compromises conceded to by their leader.

At the ballot boxes Sunday, SYRIZA supporters said they didn’t fault Tsipras for signing a bailout programme that included austerity measures he vowed to dismantle.

“It’s not perfect, but [Tsipras] will work to implement this deal,” SYRIZA voter Katherina M., 50, told dpa. She added that she cast her ballot because she believed, “Tsipras will take care of the people who now find themselves in a difficult situation. He will take care of them more than anyone else.”

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