ATHENS: Greece awoke to a new era of defiant anti-austerity Monday after voters handed a decisive victory to radical left party Syriza, putting the country on a collision course with the EU and international creditors.
In a result that exceeded analysts’ expectations, Syriza and its 40-year-old leader Alexis Tsipras won 149 seats in the 300-seatGreek parliament, just two short of an absolute majority, with most of the votes counted.
Incumbent Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s New Democracy party was routed and reduced to around 76 seats.
European finance ministers are set to meet Monday when they will have the first chance to discuss the Syriza victory, which is likely to renew fears Greece could be forced out of the euro zone if it defaults on its debt repayments.
Syriza will become the first anti austerity party to take power in Europe and Tsipras will be Greece’s youngest prime
minister in 150 years.
He told thousands of flag waving supporters in Athens Sunday: “Greece is leaving behind disastrous austerity. “Tsipras repeated his vow to renegotiate the terms of Greece’s 240-billion-euro ($269 billion) bailout with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, but struck a more conciliatory tone than during his fiery campaign.
“The new Greek government will be ready to cooperate and negotiate for the first time with our peers a just, mutually beneficial and viable solution,” the former Communist youth activist said.
An EU source conceded Sunday that an improved deal on the bailout would have to be struck with the new force inGreek politics.
“We will not escape a re-negotiation,” the source told AFP. Tsipras will quickly come under pressure at home to keep pledges such as raising the minimum wage and increasing pensions for the poorest.
The euro briefly sank to a new 11-year low against the dollar in Asian trade and stock markets fell over fears that Greece’s international bailout could be in doubt and lead to its exit from the eurozone — a so-called “Grexit”.