Tsipras snatches election victory

  • 21/09/2015

Greece's charismatic Left-wing leader Alexis Tsipras has romped to victory in Greece's general election.

The win marks his second mandate as prime minister this year despite a controversial austerity deal struck with European leaders.

With over 70 percent of the votes counted, Tsipras' Syriza party won 35.46 percent of the vote compared with 28.27 percent for conservative New Democracy and - in a sense of deja vu - will again form a coalition government with the small nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL) party.

As results showed the radical 41-year-old pulling ahead after a tight race shadowed by painful tax rises and pension reforms that lie around the corner, New Democracy leader Vangelis Meimarakis admitted defeat.

"It appears that Mr Tsipras' Syriza is first, I congratulate him," said the 61-year-old lawyer and former defence minister, whose defeat signals the end of a decades-long era in which the conservatives and socialists alternated in power.

Turnout stood at 56 percent, slightly less than in January when six out of 10 voters cast their ballots, the interior ministry said.

In a victory speech to hundreds of cheering flag-waving supporters who turned out in evening heat on a central Athens' square, Tsipras said the victory would "turn the wheel" and "change the balance" in Europe.

Tsipras also admitted that the country's pledge to go forward with four years of painful reforms set out by Europe's leaders would not be easy.

"We have difficulties ahead," he told supporters. "Recovery cannot come through magic but through lots of work, stubbornness and struggle."

France's President Francois Hollande and European Parliament president Martin Schulz, both left-wingers too, congratulated the premier-elect on his win.

"Greece will have a period of stability with a solid majority," Hollande told.

But the new coalition is likely to have a slightly narrower majority of 155 seats in the 300-seat parliament, compared with 162 seats over the period from January to August, initial results showed.

Hands-down winner of a January general election, then with 36.34 per cent of the vote, Tsipras resigned in August and called snap elections, gambling crisis-weary Greeks would give him a new mandate despite his contentious bailout deal with European leaders.

After winning office on an anti-austerity ticket, he agreed in July to more punishing austerity for the nation in exchange for its third financial rescue in five years.

He later argued he had effectively saved Greece from a chaotic exit from the eurozone.