Anti-austerity Syriza wins Greek election: exit polls

Supporters of opposition leader and head of radical leftist Syriza party Alexis Tsipras cheer at exit poll results in the northern port city of Thessaloniki Sunday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Supporters of opposition leader and head of radical leftist Syriza party Alexis Tsipras cheer at exit poll results in the northern port city of Thessaloniki Sunday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

ATHENS (AFP/BLOOMBERG) - Radical left-wing party Syriza won Greece's general election on Sunday in a victory that could impact the course of austerity in Europe, exit polls showed.

Syriza took between 35.5 per cent and 39.5 per cent of the vote, according to the polls, compared to between 23 per cent and 27 per cent for the conservative New Democracy party.

If the result is confirmed, Syriza's 40-year-old leader Alexis Tsipras could become Greece's youngest prime minister in 150 years.

"This appears to be a historic victory, a message that does not only concern the Greek people," Syriza party spokesman Panos Skourletis said.

"It resounds all over Europe and brings relief," he said on Mega channel.

Neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn and pro-European party To Potami are in a neck-and-neck race for third place with between 6.4 per cent and 8.0 per cent apiece, the polls showed.

The projected result may be enough for Syriza to govern without need of a coalition partner and hands Tsipras an overwhelming mandate to confront Greece's program of austerity imposed in return for pledges of 240 billion euros (S$362 billion) in aid since May 2010.

The challenge for Tsipras is to strike a balance between keeping his election pledges including a writedown of Greek debt and avoiding what Samaras repeatedly warned was the risk of an accidental exit from the euro.

Tsipras, speaking after casting his vote Sunday in the central Athens district of Kipseli, pledged tough negotiations leading to Greece's "return to Europe."

The election will determine if Greece can "assert itself in Europe as the people deserve," he said.