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Greek unions are staging their first general strike against austerity since Alexis Tsipras’s left-wing Syriza government came to power in January.

As protesters gathered in Athens, public services were hit and some transport services ground to a halt.

The main unions appealed for members to walk out against the terms of Greece’s third eurozone bailout.

Greece’s government agreed to push through tax rises and spending cuts in return for €86 billion ($100 billion) in rescue loans.

Greek lawmakers have already voted to raise the retirement age and get rid of most early retirement benefits, and reduced rates of sales tax on some of the big Greek islands have been scrapped.

However, the main civil servants’ union ADEDY and the GSEE private sector union objected to proposals to scale back supplementary pensions and merge pension funds. They were joined by communist-affiliated union PAME.

Public transportation services were shut down, schools were closed and hospitals had only emergency staff levels. Buses and trolley buses were providing limited services.

Photo AFP/Getty Images

Photo AFP/Getty Images

Museums and archaeological sites were also shut and news bulletins, newspapers and websites were disrupted because journalists had walked out.

Although general strikes became regular events in Greece in the years following its first eurozone bailout in 2010, this was the first called since Syriza came to power.

After reluctantly agreeing to Greece’s third international bailout in five years in August, Alexis Tsipras called an election and was returned to power in September with 35% of the vote.

Despite agreeing to a series of reforms, Greek officials are currently locked in a dispute with eurozone officials over bad home loans.

The government is trying to avoid indebted Greeks losing their homes, but creditors want an agreement on a mechanism for tackling non-performing home-loans before they unlock €10 billion to recapitalize Greek banks. A separate €2 billion bailout installment is also at stake.


There was some good news for the Greek economy on November 11 when officials announced that unemployment had fallen to 24.9% in August, the lowest level since June 2012.

Greece former PM Alexis Tsipras has hailed a “victory of the people” after his left-wing Syriza party won the country’s snap election.

Alexis Tsipras said Greeks faced a difficult road and that recovery from financial crisis would only come through hard work.

The conservative New Democracy party earlier conceded defeat.

With 60% of votes counted, Syriza is projected to be just short of a majority but the Independent Greeks have agreed to join a coalition.

The latest figures give Syriza 35% of the vote, compared with New Democracy’s 28%. The far-right Golden Dawn is set to be the third biggest party, with 7.1% of the vote.

Photo AP

Photo AP

The snap election, the fifth in six years, was called after Syriza lost its majority in August. This followed the signing of an unpopular new financial bailout deal with international creditors.

Turnout in this poll was just over 55%, down from 63% in January and low by Greek standards.

Alexis Tsipras said his decision to call an early election was vindicated and that he had been given a clear mandate.

The former prime minister told thousands of jubilant supporters in central Athens: “In Europe today, Greece and the Greek people are synonymous with resistance and dignity, and this struggle will be continued together for another four years.

“We have difficulties ahead, but we are also on firm ground. We won’t recover from the struggle by magic, but it can happen with hard work.”

Alexis Tsipras was joined on stage by Panos Kammenos, leader of the nationalist Independent Greeks, who also entered a coalition with Syriza after the previous election in January.

“Together we will continue the struggle we began seven months ago,” Alexis Tsipras said.

New Democracy leader Vangelis Meimarakis earlier conceded defeat to Alexis Tsipras, saying: “I congratulate him and urge him to create the government which is needed.”

The latest projection gives Syriza 145 seats in the 300-seat parliament, with New Democracy on 75. This is only four fewer than Alexis Tsipras’s thumping victory in January, but again leaves him just short of an absolute majority.

The Independent Greeks are likely to get 10 seats.

Greeks return to polls as voting has begun in the country’s snap general election.

Opinion polls indicate a tight race between the left-wing incumbent Syriza party and the conservative New Democracy.

The snap election, Greece’s fifth in six years, was called after Syriza lost its parliamentary majority in August.

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras’s popularity plummeted after he agreed a new bailout deal with European leaders.

The bailout involved austerity measures which Syriza had vowed to oppose.

Greece is mired in a deep financial crisis and whoever wins today’s election will have to oversee further tough economic reforms.

According to analysts, whichever party wins is unlikely to get enough seats to form a government alone.

That could mean a period of political instability just as deadlines loom for the implementation of a series of key financial reforms.

Former PM Alexis Tsipras said Greeks would elect “a fighting government” that will “move on with necessary reforms and break with the old regime”, as he cast his ballot on Sunday morning in the Athens district of Kypseli.

Photo AP

Photo AP

Alexis Tsipras signed the bailout deal shortly after a referendum in which more than 60% of voters rejected the austerity measures creditors wanted to impose.

In interviews leading up to the election, Alexis Tsipras Tsipras said he had put his country above his party. He said that had he not agreed to the three-year bailout, Greece would probably have had to leave the eurozone.

He told Antenna TV on September 18 he would “tug the rope” to try to win relief on Greece’s huge national debt from EU creditors.

His main rival, New Democracy leader Vangelis Meimarakis, has dismissed Alexis Tsipras’s term in office as “an experiment that cost [the country] dearly”.

“I fear that if Syriza is elected… the country will soon be led to elections again, and this would be disastrous,” he said.

Commentators say there is also a tight race for third place between the socialist Pasok party and the far-right Golden Dawn.

Analysts have said the migrant crisis on Greece’s doorstep may boost support for Golden Dawn, which is strongly opposed to immigration.

Polls close at 19:00 local time, with the first projected results expected two hours later.

Nearly 10 million Greeks have registered to vote.

Syriza rebels will form a new party trying to govern Greece, local media reports.

Former Prime Minister and left-wing Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras stood down on August 20, paving the way for new elections.

The move came after Alexis Tsipras lost the support of many of his own members of parliament in a vote on the country’s new bailout with European creditors earlier this month.

Greek media reports say 25 rebel Syriza members of parliament will join the new party, called Laiki Enotita (Popular Unity).

The party will be led by former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who was strongly opposed to the bailout deal.

At a press conference in Athens, Pangiotis Lafazanis said he was ready to respect the result of a referendum held in July, in which 61% of Greeks said they would not support the terms of the bailout.Panagiotis Lafazanis breaks Syriza party

“If it is necessary for us to cancel the memorandum, we will follow the course of exiting the euro,” Pangiotis Lafazanis is quoted by Kathimerini newspaper as saying.

Syriza won 149 seats in Greece’s 300-seat parliament in the last election in January.

The conservative New Democracy party came second, with 76 seats.

The new Popular Unity party becomes the third largest in parliament.

In exchange for a new €86 billion ($95 billion) from European partners, Alexis Tsipras had to agree to painful state sector cuts, including far-reaching pension reforms – and keep Greece in the eurozone.

Close to a third of Syriza’s members of parliament abstained or voted against the terms of the new deal last week.

At the time, Panagiotis Lafazanis said he was determined to “smash the eurozone dictatorship”.

On August 21, the head of conservative New Democracy party, Vangelis Meimarakis, met Greece’s president and he will now have three days to form a government.

Observers say he does not have enough support and elections will be called.

Reports suggest the election – the fifth in six years – will be called for September 20.

If Vangelis Meimarakis fails to form a government, the chance will be given to the new party, analysts say, and then the far-right Golden Dawn party.

They, too, are unlikely to be able to gain enough allies to establish a government.

All parties can waive the right to negotiate and allow the president to approve a snap election.

Vangelis Meimarakis, however, has said he will try and use his mandate to form a government in the next few days.

Dimitris Stratoulis, one of the new members of Popular Unity, told Reuters that his party would also try to use the mandate and put a government together.

Greece’s PM Alexis Tsipras has said his country is in the final, critical stretch of talks with its international creditors and that he believes an interim deal will be in place by May 9.

Greece’s objective was to find an agreement this week or next week at the latest, Alexis Tsipras said in a marathon TV interview on April 27.

Alexis Tsipras defended Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who was sidelined from Greece’s negotiating team on April 27.

However, the prime minister admitted mistakes had been made in talks with EU partners.

Since Greece’s left-wing Syriza party came to power on January 25, it has sought to renegotiate the terms of the country’s €240 billion ($260 billion) bailout from the IMF and EU.Alexis Tsipras EU deal

Greece’s negotiators have so far failed to satisfy the country’s international creditors with the scope of economic reforms required before the EU hands over the latest €7.2 billion tranche of the bailout, which the government needs to pay its bills.

Yanis Varoufakis was left isolated at an EU finance ministers meeting in Latvia on April 24, skipping a state dinner and tweeting a line from late US President Franklin Roosevelt.

Describing Yanis Varoufakis as an important asset for Greece, Alexis Tsipras argued that he had annoyed his European colleagues because he spoke their language better than they did.

From now on, Greece’s negotiations will be led by another economist in the government, Euclid Tsakalotos.

In his three-hour appearance on Greece’s Star TV, Alexis Tsipras acknowledged there was a “negative atmosphere” surrounding the talks but he suggested it was all a standard part of negotiations.

Alexis Tsipras was also critical of the government’s European negotiating partners, accusing them of reneging on a verbal commitment in February to allow Greek banks to finance the government.

“I believe we are close. I believe that if no-one wants to undermine or torpedo [the talks] we are close to an accepted package,” he said.

There would be concessions, the prime minister said, such as the part privatization of Piraeus port and the leasing of 14 regional airports.

Greece is facing a €200 million debt interest payment to the IMF on May 1st and has appealed to various public bodies to provide money from their cash reserves.

The big debt interest payment to the IMF is due on May 12, when the Greek government will have to find another €750 million.

Almost half the international investors surveyed by German research group Sentix believe Greece will leave the euro in the next 12 months.

Sentix’s break-up index for Greece rose from 35.5% in March to 48.8% in April, based on a survey of around 1,000 investors.

Alexis Tsipras rejected the idea of snap elections if EU talks failed but he did say that a referendum could be held on a final deal.

Greece’s anti-austerity PM Alexis Tsipras has warned of “real difficulties” ahead, as his government faces February 23 deadline to submit a list of reforms to lenders.

Under a deal agreed on February 20, the list must be approved by the international creditors in order for Greece to secure a four-month extension of its bailout.

“We won a battle, not the war,” Alexis Tspiras said on February 21.

The deal is widely regarded as a major climb down for the prime minister, who won power vowing to reverse budget cuts.

Alexis Tsipras hailed the agreement as a “decisive step” that “achieved much” towards ending austerity, but added: “We have a long and difficult road ahead.”

The Greek cabinet is due to meet to discuss it on February 21.Alexis Tsipras Greece debt deal

No details have emerged about the potential list of reforms, which must be approved before eurozone members ratify the bailout extension on Tuesday.

Analysts say a collapse of the deal would revive fears of an exit from the euro, a so-called “grexit” – something both the EU and Greece say they want to avoid.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble stressed on February 20 that there would be no payment of new funds to Greece until the conditions of the deal had been met.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he would work night and day until February 23 to devise the list of reforms.

“If the list of reforms is not agreed, this agreement is dead,” he admitted.

The Greek Communist Party (KKE) accused the coalition, which is led by its far-left rivals Syriza, of extending the bailout without getting the loan conditions changed.

“Ultimately the bill will be footed by the people, as it happened with all previous governments,” KKE leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas said.

The Greek government is already in trouble with its voters for seeking the bailout extension at all – something it swore it would never do.

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Greece’s new PM Alexis Tsipras has said he is confident that agreement can be reached with creditors over repayment of his country’s debts.

Alexis Tsipras said in a statement issued to Bloomberg news agency that he had never intended to act unilaterally.

This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has ruled out debt cancellation, saying creditors had already made concessions.

Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party won last weekend’s election with a pledge to have half the debt written off.

Its new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has refused to work with the “troika” of global institutions overseeing Greek debt, which had agreed a €240 billion ($270 billion) bailout with the previous Greek government.Alexis Tsipras Greece debts

The troika is made up of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Greece still has a debt of €315 billion – about 175% of gross domestic product – despite some creditors writing down debts in a renegotiation in 2012.

Alexis Tsipras said Greece would repay its debts to the ECB and IMF, and reach a deal with the eurozone nations that funded most of the bailout package.

“The deliberation with our European partners has just begun,” he said.

“Despite the fact that there are differences in perspective, I am absolutely confident that we will soon manage to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, both for Greece and for Europe as a whole.”

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, chairman of the eurozone finance ministers’ group, said he welcomed Alexis Tsipras’ comments.

“It is now up to the Greek government to determine its position on how to move forward,” he said.

“Further decisions will be taken jointly in the Eurogroup in the coming weeks.”

In interviews in the German media published on Saturday, Angela Merkel said she still wanted Greece to stay in the eurozone but did not “envisage fresh debt cancellation”.

“There has already been voluntary debt forgiveness by private creditors, banks have already slashed billions from Greece’s debt,” she told Hamburger Abendblatt.

Greece’s current program of loans ends on February 28. A final bailout tranche of €7.2 billion still has to be negotiated but the new government has already begun to roll back austerity measures.

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Ahead of his visit to Greece, European Parliament President Martin Schulz says he will use “straight talking” in his first meeting with Alexis Tsipras’ government.

Martin Schulz’s visit to Athens comes amid concerns over steps by PM Alexis Tsipras to halt austerity measures.

Greek bank stocks edged back up on January 29 a day after dipping sharply as the government shelved privatization schemes required under bailout terms.

European leaders have insisted Greece must meet its debt obligations.

Alexis Tsipras has said he wants to renegotiate the terms – but insisted there will be no Greek default, which is feared may push Greece out of the eurozone.

Greece has endured tough budget cuts in return for its €240 billion ($270 billion) bailout, negotiated in 2010 with the “troika” – the European Union, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB).

Its economy has shrunk drastically since the 2008 global financial crisis, and high unemployment has thrown many Greeks into poverty.Martin Schulz and Alexis Tsipras

Ahead of his visit, the European Parliament president told Germany’s Bild newspaper he would encourage Alexis Tsipras to clamp down on tax evasion in Greece.

However, Martin Schulz he said he would focus on “straight talking” and had “no desire” to debate fiscal plans.

Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel also reiterated the need for Greece to respect the terms of its bailout on Thursday.

Speaking in the German parliament, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the new Greek government could not expect the rest of Europe to carry what he called their “burden”.

“People must respect the democratic decision of voters and a newly-elected government’s right to decide its course but the rest of Europe’s citizens should not have to expect changes in Greek politics to burden them,” he said.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the president of the Eurogroup club of eurozone finance ministers, will visit Athens on January 30.

Ahead of the dignitaries’ trips, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reiterated that cancelling Greece’s huge debt was not an option.

“Greece must comply with Europe,” Jean-Claude Juncker said in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro on January 29, stressing that “there is no question of cancelling the debt”.

“Arrangements are possible, but they will not fundamentally alter what is in place.”

In his first cabinet meeting since Syriza’s election victory, PM Alexis Tsipras insisted that his country would not default on its debts and vowed to negotiate with creditors over the bailout.

The Athens Stock Exchange fell by 9% in response to Alexis Tsipras’s remarks on January 28 as it emerged that his Syriza-led government was putting on hold major privatization projects, including the port of Piraeus and the main power company, the Public Power Corporation of Greece.

Greek stocks rebounded on January 29, with the National Bank of Greece up 6.7% and Alpha Bank up 11.8%, according to Reuters.

Addressing his first cabinet meeting, Greece’s new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says his country will not default on its debts.

Alexis Tsipras said he would negotiate with creditors over the €240 billion ($270 billion) bailout.

“We won’t get into a mutually destructive clash but we will not continue a policy of subjection,” said the left-wing Syriza party leader.

Germany’s vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, said it was unfair of Greece to expect other states to pick up its bills.

“I cannot imagine a haircut [debt reduction],” Sigmar Gabriel said.

As Alex Tsipras made his debut cabinet speech, Greek government bond yields rose to their highest since the 2012 debt restructuring, amid investor concern that the anti-austerity coalition was gearing up for a clash with international creditors.

The Athens Stock Exchange fell by 8% in response to Alexis Tsipras’s remarks, and as it emerged that his government was putting on hold major privatization projects, including the port of Piraeus and the main power company, the Public Power Corporation of Greece.Alexis Tsipras first cabinet meeting

Greece has endured tough budget cuts in return for its 2010 bailout, negotiated with the “troika” – the European Union, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB).

The country’s economy has shrunk drastically since the 2008 global financial crisis, and high unemployment has thrown many Greeks into poverty.

Vowing to defend Greek dignity, Alexis Tsipras said a renegotiation of the Greek debts would aim for a “viable, fair, mutually beneficial solution”. He did not give any details.

Alexis Tsipras promised “realistic proposals” for an economic recovery and vowed to fight corruption and tax evasion. His recovery plan, he said, was aimed at preventing deficits in the future.

The new coalition government – with the right-wing but equally anti-austerity Greek Independents – was sworn into office on January 27.

Its chief economics spokesman, Euclid Tsakalotos, has argued that it is unrealistic to expect Greece to repay its huge debt in full.

The current bailout program of loans to Greece ends on February 28. There are still 1.8 billion euros of loans that could be disbursed to Greece if it meets the conditions imposed by the troika.

Economists estimate that Greece needs to raise about 4.3 billion euros in Q1 2015 to help pay its way, with Athens possibly having to ask the IMF and eurozone countries.

Sigmar Gabriel, who is also economy minister and leads the junior partner in Angela Merkel’s coalition government, said: “Our aim must be to keep Greece in the eurozone but solidarity and fairness work both ways.”

“Citizens of other euro states have a right to see that the deals linked to their acts of solidarity are upheld,” he said.

“Every country in Europe has its own history and cannot separate itself from this through new elections.”

Sigmar Gabriel urged the Greek government to talk to its partners before going ahead with decisions such as halting the privatization of the port of Piraeus.

“Things that Greece itself won’t do cannot be shunted on to the taxpayers and employers in neighboring states,” the German Social Democrat leader said.

Greek 10-year bond yields climbed above 10%, reflecting fears that investors may not get their money back.

The yield of a bond is inverse to its price: as the price goes down, the yield grows.

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Greece’s new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has formed a new cabinet with Yanis Varoufakis as finance minister and right-winger Panos Kammenos as defense minister.

Yanis Varoufakis is an outspoken critic of the conditions imposed on Greece in return for the 2010 bailout.

He will have the tough job of leading talks with the EU over the Syriza party’s pledge to renegotiate Greece’s massive international bailout.

Panos Kammenos is a member of the anti-bailout Independent Greeks party.

It joined a coalition with Syriza, after the left-wing party narrowly failed to secure a majority in parliament in Sunday’s elections.

The EU has meanwhile warned that the new government must stick to its creditor commitments.Alexis Tsipras prime minister

The government’s chief economics spokesman, Euclid Tsakalotos, has argued that it is unrealistic to expect Greece to repay its huge debt in full.

Correspondents say that the appointment of Yanis Varoufakis – who holds dual Greek and Australian nationality – is a signal that the new Syriza-led coalition will take an uncompromising stance when renegotiating Greece’s €240 billion ($270 billion) EU-IMF package.

Yanis Varoufakis insists that Greece cannot restore its finances until its debt is lessened and has described the bailout as “fiscal waterboarding”.

Before the appointment of Yanis Varoufakis, PM Alexis Tsipras said EU leaders needed now to show that they were willing to work with Syriza – and that it would be his “worst nightmare” if the eurozone collapsed because Greece fell.

The appointment of Panos Kammenos into the 11-minister cabinet is also likely to be controversial, correspondents say, because of his claims that Germany is to blame for his country’s economic woes by its insistence on budgetary belt tightening.

Other key appointments made by the prime minister include: Nikos Kotzias as foreign minister, Nikos Pappas as state minister, Nikos Voutsis as interior minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis as production and environment minister, Panos Skourletis as labor and social solidarity minister.

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Greek elections big winner, the far-left Syriza party, has formed an anti-austerity coalition with a right-wing party, the Independent Greeks.

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has taken the oath as the new prime minister.

Alexis Tsipras has vowed to renegotiate Greece’s bailouts, worth €240 billion ($268 billion).

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker congratulated Alexis Tsipras while reminding him of the challenge of “ensuring fiscal responsibility”.

“The European Commission stands ready to continue assisting Greece in achieving these goals,” Jean-Calude Juncker said in a tweet which also referred to “promoting sustainable jobs and growth”.Syriza forms anti-austerity coalition with Independent Greeks

The euro recovered from an 11-year low against the US dollar as investors digested what Syriza’s victory means for the eurozone’s future.

Europe’s main share markets also rose – after initial falls – on hopes that a compromise over Greece’s bailout terms might be found.

With nearly all of the votes counted in Sunday’s poll, Syriza looks set to have 149 seats, just two short of an absolute majority. The Greek Independents are projected to have 13 seats in the 300-seat parliament.

Greece election result is expected to be one of the main issues at Monday’s meeting of 19 eurozone finance ministers.

Sunday’s result means that a majority of voters in Greece have essentially rejected a core policy for dealing with the eurozone crisis as devised by Brussels and Germany.

The troika of lenders that bailed out Greece – the European Union, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund – imposed big budgetary cuts and restructuring in return for the bailout money.

The man tipped to become the new Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, said the austerity regime had been “fiscal waterboarding policies that have turned Greece into a debt colony”.

Greece’s economy has shrunk drastically since the 2008 global financial crisis, and increasing unemployment has thrown many Greeks into poverty.

On January 25, Alexis Tsipras told jubilant supporters he wanted to write off half of Greece’s debt, but was ready to negotiate “a viable solution” and wants the country to stay in the eurozone.

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The euro hit an 11-year low against the dollar as investors digest what Syriza’s election victory in Greece means for the eurozone’s future.

The currency fell as low as $1.1088, the lowest level against the dollar in more than 11 years, but in mid-morning trading was 0.4% higher at $1.125.

Europe’s main share markets also rose – after initial falls – on hopes that a compromise over Greece’s bailout terms might be found.

Syriza wants to renegotiate the €240 billion bailout and slow the austerity cuts.

The left-wing party’s leader Alexis Tsipras said he wanted negotiation, not confrontation, with Greece’s international lenders.

“The new Greek government will be ready to co-operate and negotiate for the first time with our peers a just, mutually beneficial and viable solution,” Alexis Tsipras said.Syriza victory hits euro

The troika of lenders that bailed out Greece – the European Union, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund – imposed big budgetary cuts and restructuring in return for the money.

Alexis Tsipras said: “The troika for Greece is the thing of the past.”

The euro had already been under pressure following last week’s announcement of a new stimulus program by the European Central Bank.

Greece’s current bailout program ends in February, and economists say a short term deal will be negotiated, but difficult talks lie ahead. Germany has indicated that it is not prepared to renegotiate the bailout terms, raising the prospect that Greece could end up leaving the eurozone.

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Radical-leftist Syriza party has won a clear victory in Greece’s general election.

With nearly 70% of the votes counted, Syriza is projected to win 149 seats, just two short of an absolute majority, though that number could change.

Syriza’s leader Alexis Tsipras, who has vowed to renegotiate Greece’s debt with international creditors, said “today the Greeks wrote history”.

The ruling New Democracy has come a distant second.

Outgoing PM Antonis Samaras has admitted defeat and called Alexis Tsipras to congratulate him.

Appearing before jubilant crowds in the capital Athens, Alexis Tsipras, 40, said Greek voters gave Syriza “a clear, powerful mandate”.

“You are an example of history which is changing… Your mandate is undoubtedly cancelling the bailouts of austerity and destruction. Alexis Tsipras Syriza wins Greece elections

“The troika for Greece is the thing of the past,” Alexis Tsipras added, referring to Greece’s biggest international lenders – the European Union, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB).

He also promised to negotiate a fair and mutually beneficial financial solution.

Alexis Tsipras earlier vowed to reverse many of the austerity measures adopted by Greece since a series of bailouts began in 2010.

For his part, Antonis Samaras said earlier: “The Greek people have spoken and I respect their decision,” pointing out that he had inherited a “hot potato” on coming into office and that he and his party had done much to restore his country’s finances.

The result is being closely watched outside Greece, where it is believed a Syriza victory could encourage radical leftist parties across Europe.

Either way however, partial results from Greece’s election commission showed a clear Syriza lead.

With 67% of the votes counted, Syriza is polling 36%, while the New Democracy is a distant second with 28%.

An acronym meaning the “Radical Coalition of the Left”, Syriza was formed in 2004 as an umbrella group. It first came to prominence following the 2008 Greek riots.

Another five parties – Far-right Golden Dawn and centrist The River – are expected to be represented in the 300-member parliament, beating the 3% threshold.

The proportion of votes won by smaller parties will have a large impact on whether Syriza can gain the required 151 parliamentary seats to govern with an absolute majority.

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Greece is voting in a general election which could result in the country trying to renegotiate the terms of its bailout with international lenders.

The left-wing Syriza party, which is tipped to win, wants part of Greece’s huge debt written off and austerity measures revoked.

This has spooked money markets and raised fears of a Greek exit from the euro.

The governing New Democracy party says the economy is recovering.

Greece has endured tough budget cuts in return for the bailout negotiated with the so-called troika of lenders – the European Union, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB).

The economy has shrunk drastically since the 2008 global financial crisis, increasing unemployment and throwing many Greeks into poverty.

Polls across Greece opened at 07:00 local time and will close at 19:00.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

There are nearly 10 million eligible voters, who are electing the country’s 300-member parliament.

First exit polls are expected immediately after the voting ends.

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras says his party will restore “dignity” to Greece by rolling back on cuts to jobs, pay and pensions which have hurt millions of people across the country.

The possibility of a Syriza victory has sparked fears that Greece could default on its debt and leave the euro – the single currency of 19 EU members.

This is despite the fact that Syriza has moderated its stance since the peak of the eurozone crisis, and says it wants Greece to stay a member of the currency.

Meanwhile, the leader of centre-right New Democracy and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has promised to work “day and night” to keep the country standing.

Syriza, he argues, could force Greece from the euro by its policies, serving what he called the “drachma lobby”, a reference to the former Greek currency.

Antonis Samaras also warns that Greece could miss out on a massive program of quantitative easing unveiled by the ECB last week to help stimulate the eurozone economy.

The centrist To Potami and the right-wing Golden Dawn party are expected to fight for third place in the elections.

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Greece’s left-wing party Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras says an end to “national humiliation” is near, as opinion polls put the party ahead three days before the general election.

Alexis Tsipras asked supporters for a clear mandate to enable him to end Greece’s austerity policies.

He repeated his promise to have half of Greece’s international debt written off when the current bailout deal ends.

Greece has endured deep budget cuts tied to the massive bailout.

The country’s election on January 25 is being closely watched by financial markets which fear that a Syriza victory could lead Greece to default on its debt and exit from the euro.

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Photo Reuters

“On Monday, national humiliation will be over. We will finish with orders from abroad,” Alexis Tsipras told thousands of cheering supporters at the party’s final election rally in Athens.

“We are asking for a first chance for Syriza. It might be the last chance for Greece.”

Greece has gone through a deep recession and still has a quarter of its workforce unemployed.

However, there have been warnings that a Syriza victory could lead to a dangerous confrontation with other eurozone countries.

Syriza is tipped to win but without an outright majority, and analysts say the party may struggle to find a coalition partner.

Alexis Tsipras has said he will not govern with those who support what he has called the policies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Germany is seen in Greece as taking the hardest line on its debt.

Earlier this month, a spokesman for Angela Merkel said Germany expected Greece to uphold the terms of its international bailout agreement.

Under those terms, the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank – the so-called troika – supported Greece with the promise of €240 billion in return for budget cuts and economic reforms.

Latest polls show Syriza widening its lead over PM Antonis Samaras’s centre-right New Democracy party.

A poll to be published on January 23 by Metron Analysis put Syriza’s lead over New Democracy up to 5.3 percentage points from 4.6 points.

Another poll, by Rass, had Syriza 4.8 points in the lead.

Antonis Samaras will hold his final election rally on January 23 as both sides make a final push to win over undecided voters.

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Talks between three Greek parties on forming a new coalition government are set to resume on Wednesday, amid intense international pressure.

New Democracy, the conservative winner of Sunday’s election, is expected to lead the new government.

Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos said a government could be formed by midday on Wednesday.

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras’s three-day mandate to form a government expires on Wednesday.

It is unclear whether Pasok, which came third in the vote, will join the government, or merely support it.

The third party is Democratic Left. Between them, the three parties would have a majority of 29 seats in parliament.

They all favor keeping Greece in the euro while wanting to renegotiate terms of its EU-IMF bailouts, although they differ on the extent.

However, European leaders have indicated that there is limited room for manoeuvre and are expecting details on how the new government intends to make another 11.7 billion Euros ($14.8 billion) of cuts by 2014.

New Democracy won 129 seats in Greece’s 300-seat parliament on Sunday, followed by the radical anti-bailout party, Syriza, with 71, Pasok with 33 and the Democratic Left with 17.

New Democracy won 129 seats in Greece's 300-seat parliament on Sunday, followed by the radical anti-bailout party, Syriza, with 71, Pasok with 33 and the Democratic Left with 17

New Democracy won 129 seats in Greece's 300-seat parliament on Sunday, followed by the radical anti-bailout party, Syriza, with 71, Pasok with 33 and the Democratic Left with 17

World powers have urged Greece to move swiftly to form a government.

Speaking after talks between the three parties in parliament on Tuesday, Eavngelos Venizelos said a government “must be formed as soon as possible”.

He said his party would support the government “wholeheartedly”, but had not yet decided what form its participation would take.

If Antonis Samaras fails to form a government by the deadline on Wednesday, Syriza would be given a chance, followed by Pasok.

But Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has said he will not even attempt to do so. He has also refused to join a government led by New Democracy.

Two international bailouts have been awarded to Greece, an initial package worth 110 billion Euros ($138 billion) in 2010, then a follow-up last year worth 130 billion Euros ($164 billion), but they come with tough austerity measures attached.

Greece has also had 107 billion Euros ($135 billion) of debt, held by private investors, written off.

Bailout deal – Greek pledges

• Cut 15,000 state sector jobs this year – aiming for 150,000 to be cut by 2015

• Cut minimum wage by 22%, to about 600 Euros a month

• Pension cut worth 300 million Euros this year

• Spending cuts of more than 3 billion Euros this year

• Liberalize labor laws to make hiring and firing easier

• Boost tax collection

• Carry out privatizations worth 15 billion Euros by 2015

• Open up more professions to competition (health, tourism and real estate)

• Greece aims to cut its debt burden to 116% of GDP by 2020

 

Right-wing New Democracy and left-wing Syriza parties are almost neck-and-neck after Greek parliamentary elections, according to the first exit polls.

New Democracy, which broadly supports a European bailout deal, was one to two percentage points ahead of Syriza, which opposes the measure.

The outcome could decide Greece’s future inside the euro.

If the exit poll is correct, New Democracy should be able to build a majority coalition.

The government will be relatively weak, and will seek to change the terms of the bailout.

The election was the second in six weeks, called after a 6 May vote proved inconclusive.

On that occasion, each of the main parties tried but failed to form a coalition government.

New Democracy is thought to have polled between 28 and 30% of votes, with 27-28% for Syriza, one exit poll carried out jointly by five polling companies for the main TV channels showed.

An earlier version of the poll only 80% complete had the two parties virtually neck and neck, prompting fears of a hung parliament.

The latest projection would give New Democracy 127 seats, benefiting from a rule which gives the leading party 50 extra seats in the 300-seat chamber.

Right-wing New Democracy and left-wing Syriza parties are almost neck-and-neck after Greek parliamentary elections, according to the first exit polls

Right-wing New Democracy and left-wing Syriza parties are almost neck-and-neck after Greek parliamentary elections, according to the first exit polls

It gave the centre-left Pasok, its potential coalition partner, 32 seats, enough for a majority in the 300-seat parliament, with Syriza gaining 72 seats.

New Democracy could also invite a small left-wing party, Democratic Left, to join the coalition to reflect some of the anti-bailout feeling in the country.

With such a strong showing by Syriza, Greece could be in for an autumn of discontent by opponents of the bailout deal.

Another poll for a separate TV station gave Syriza a marginal lead.

Coalition talks will be expected to start on Monday.

Several smaller anti-bailout parties are expected to get between 13 and 21 seats.

Sunday’s vote is being watched around the world, amid fears that a Greek exit from the euro could spread contagion to other eurozone members and send turmoil throughout the global economy.

Tough austerity measures were attached to the two international bailouts awarded to Greece, an initial package worth 110 billion Euros ($138 billion) in 2010, then a follow-up last year worth 130 billion Euros.

Many Greeks are unhappy with the conditions attached to deals which have been keeping the country from bankruptcy.

Polls have shown most Greeks favor staying in the euro and all the main parties except the communist KKE say they will keep Greece in the single currency, but Syriza believes it can renegotiate the bailout deal.

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras has warned that rejection of the bailout would lead to a return to the drachma, but correspondents say a very large number of Greeks appear to have defied this pressure.

“Greeks voted with emotion and not with reason, this is why you see these numbers,” New Democracy supporter Evangelos Datsos told Reuters news agency after the initial exit polll results came through.

But Syriza supporters were confident of victory.

There is a subdued atmosphere in the Greek capital on Sunday night, with many people just at home, watching nervously on television.

Greeks are proud and therefore private when it comes to explaining their fears to foreigners, our correspondent says, but behind closed doors they are worried about what this means for their country and their futures.

 

Right-wing New Democracy and left-wing Syriza parties are almost neck-and-neck after Greek parliamentary elections, according to the first exit polls.

Greece elections exit polls 75% at 19:00, local time:

New Democracy: 27.5-30.5%

Syriza: 27-30%

Pasok: 10-12%

Right-wing New Democracy and left-wing Syriza parties are almost neck-and-neck after Greek parliamentary elections, according to the first exit polls

Right-wing New Democracy and left-wing Syriza parties are almost neck-and-neck after Greek parliamentary elections, according to the first exit polls

Greek elections outcomes:

If pro-austerity parties (Pasok and New Democracy) win:

• Could have best chance of re-negotiating bailout

• May say austerity measures need longer time-frame

• But may need a third party to form majority

If anti-austerity parties (Syriza and others) win:

• Syriza threatening not to honor bailout

• If so, Greece could be forced out of euro

• Reintroduction of Drachma would lead to devaluation, inflation and business failures

• But could allow economy to grow

If there is a hung parliament:

• Third round of elections needed

• More political uncertainty

• Restricted access to bailout funds

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The polls have opened this morning in Greece for crucial elections which could determine the country’s future in the eurozone.

The main contenders, the right-wing New Democracy and left-wing Syriza, are at odds over whether broadly to stick with the tough EU bailout deal, or reject it and boost social spending.

Opinion polls are banned for two weeks before voting but unofficial polls say the result is too close to call.

EU leaders say if Greece rejects the bailout, it may have to leave the euro.

The poll, the second in six weeks, was called after a vote on 6 May proved inconclusive.

Sunday’s vote is being watched around the world, amid fears that a Greek exit from the euro could spread contagion to other eurozone members and send turmoil throughout the global economy.

Tough austerity measures were attached to the two international bailouts awarded to Greece, an initial package worth 110 billion Euros ($138 billion) in 2010, then a follow-up last year worth 130 billion Euros.

Many Greeks are unhappy with the conditions attached to deals which have been keeping Greece from bankruptcy and all but one of the parties standing for election have promised some degree of renegotiation of the terms.

The polls have opened this morning in Greece for crucial elections which could determine the country's future in the eurozone

The polls have opened this morning in Greece for crucial elections which could determine the country's future in the eurozone

In remarks quoted by the Reuters news agency a few hours before polls opened, the head of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Angel Gurria suggested that the next Greek government should be given a chance to revisit the bailout conditions.

“If that is the condition presented for Greece to stay [in the eurozone] and then move on, I would say it is probably something that should be attempted,” he was quoted as saying.

But Germany, which has the eurozone’s most powerful economy, insists Greece, like other member states which have received international bailouts, must abide by the austerity conditions.

On the eve of the vote, Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “It is extremely important that tomorrow’s Greek elections lead to a result in which those who form the government say, ‘Yes, we want to keep to our commitments.'”

Like Angel Gurria, the German chancellor and several other European leaders will be attending the G20 summit in the Mexican resort of Los Cabos on Monday, which is set to be dominated by the eurozone crisis and the aftermath of the election.

The head of New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, told supporters on Friday that he would lead the country out of the financial crisis, while staying in the eurozone.

He broadly accepts Greece’s international bailout, but says he will renegotiate the terms of the agreement to seek a better deal for Greeks.

“We will exit the crisis; we will not exit the euro. We will not let anyone take us out of Europe,” Antonis Samaras said.

The youthful head of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, rejects the bailout, but wants Greece to stay in the eurozone, saying a bailout is possible without the kind of drastic cuts demanded of Greece.

“Brussels expect us, we are coming on Monday to negotiate over people’s rights, to cancel the bailout,” he told a final rally on Thursday.

Greeks were celebrating hours before the polls opened, after their national football team qualified for the quarter finals of Euro 2012 with a surprise 1-0 win over Russia.

“We are proud that we gave the people back home some joy and a break from their problems – even for a short while,” striker Georgios Samaras said.

The Kathimerini website noted that Greeks had few reasons to feel national pride at the moment, but sport had provided them with plenty of it. The victory could lead to a quarter-final tie against Germany.

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