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Greek Right Holds 'Slim' Poll Lead

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A man holds a Greek flag before a conservative New Democracy party rally on Syntagma Square in Athens on June 15.

A man holds a Greek flag before a conservative New Democracy party rally on Syntagma Square in Athens on June 15.

Greek exit polls are showing the two top contenders in the country's repeat parliamentary elections running neck-and-neck.

Wearied by their country's long-running political and economic crisis, Greek voters have been casting their ballots in elections for the national assembly that could decide their future in the eurozone.

Exit polls suggest that the country is nearly evenly split between the left-wing Syriza party, headed by Alexis Tsipras, and the conservative New Democracy party of Antonis Samaras.

New Democracy is projected to receive between 27.5 percent and 30.5 percent of the vote while Syriza is said to be hot on its heels with 27-30 percent of the vote.

However, it is unlikely that either party will win a clear majority, meaning that a coalition will have to be formed with smaller parties. According to final exit polls, New Democracy and the traditional socialist Pasok party may have just enough seats to form a pro-bailout coaltion.

This will come as a blow to Tsipras, a 37-year-old former student activist, who had pledged that the 130-billion-euro bailout deal Greece negotiated with European partners earlier this year will be "history" if his party was able to form a majority coalition.

Samaras is also seeking to renegotiate the bailout deal, but less radically.

'A New Start'

After casting his ballot on June 17 in his hometown of Pylos, Samaras said the elections would "usher a new start for Greece."

In Athens, Tsipras said Greeks have "conquered fear" and will keep their place as an "equal member" of Europe.

He also claimed victory for his party would "open a path to hope, to a better future."

Opinion polls show that about 80 percent of Greeks want to remain within the eurozone.

Greece has relied on rescue loans since mid-2010 when high interest rates locked it out of credit markets following revelations of years of reckless spending and the falsification of financial information.

Earlier this year, Greece agreed to a 130-billion-euro bailout package, plus a debt write-off of 107 billion euros, in exchange for sharp spending cuts and other reforms.

Tsipras has tried to convince voters he can renegotiate the European rescue deal without Greece being compelled to leave the eurozone.

Merkel Urges Greeks

Nevertheless, his proposals -- including nationalizing banks, reducing privatizations, and rolling back austerity measures -- have alarmed European leaders.

On June 16, a day ahead of the elections, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Greeks to stand by their government's commitments.

"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 our commitments,'" she said.

Also on June 16, Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg's prime minister and the leader of the eurozone finance ministers' group, said that if Tsipras wins the election "the consequences for monetary union are unpredictable."

Elections on May 6 proved inconclusive, as neither party was able to form a government.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP

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